Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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In the progressive muscle relaxation (short PME ; and progressive muscle relaxation , short PMR , progressive relaxation , in short, PR , or deep muscle relaxation ) by Edmund Jacobson is a relaxation technique , in which certain of the deliberate and conscious tensing and relaxing muscle groups a condition deeper relaxation of the whole body is to be achieved. The individual muscle parts are first tensed one after the other in a certain order, the muscle tension is kept briefly, and then the tension is released. The focus of the person is focused on the alternation between tension and relaxation and on the sensations associated with these different states. The aim of the procedure is to reduce muscle tension below normal levels due to improved body awareness. Over time, the person should learn to induce muscular relaxation whenever they want. In addition, the relaxation of the muscles should also reduce other signs of physical restlessness or excitement, such as palpitations , sweating or tremors . In addition, muscle tension can be detected and loosened, thereby reducing pain.

Possible applications

The method of progressive muscle relaxation is often used as part of behavior therapy, for example in the treatment of anxiety disorders, where it is used as part of systematic desensitization . But even with arterial hypertension , headaches , chronic back pain , sleep disorders and stress , good results can be achieved with progressive muscle relaxation.

Nowadays, in Germany, for example, courses are offered at adult education centers and at statutory health insurance companies, in which one can learn progressive muscle relaxation. However, there is also the possibility of self-training with the help of books and relaxation CDs. It is unclear here whether musical support can increase the effect of muscle relaxation or whether it is to be assessed as more distracting.

In addition to the use in the systematic desensitization according to Wolpe, the PMR will also help the covert sensitization (Engl. Covert sensitization ,) used to promote the focused attention and a clear idea. In the differential relaxation PMR serves as a starting point.

Clinical evidence and effectiveness

In a meta-study published in 1994 , 66 studies published to 1985 with a total of around 3,000 patients on PME were evaluated as an independent (and not just supporting behavioral therapy) therapy method. In 75% of the studies, significant improvements in symptoms were found, and in 60% there were also improvements in general well-being. These were stable. The specific effectiveness of PME is well documented in anxiety and tension states (including associated physical complaints). The PME is said to have a differential effect, ideally in patients with milder symptoms who were positive about the effectiveness of the PME from the start. Because of this and the fact that it is relatively easy to learn, PME is referred to as the most suitable relaxation method for clinical practice.

Muscle groups

In the original version, Jacobson worked with 30 muscle groups. In the course of further development and research, shorter versions have been developed. Bernstein and Borcovec (1978) start with only 16 muscle groups, which can be reduced to up to four muscle groups with increasing exercise.

Later further developments are the conditioned relaxation according to Paul and Goldfried or the applied relaxation according to Öst.


The information on contraindications is not entirely uniform in the literature. On the one hand, there are no specific contraindications for this relaxation procedure, on the other hand one reads about relative contraindications. In the case of migraines, relaxation as an attack prophylaxis is principally promising, but is only contraindicated in advance. Absolute contraindications are rare, such as in the case of psychoses in an acute episode.

See also


  • Eberhardt Hofmann: Progressive muscle relaxation, a training program . 2nd Edition. Hogrefe, Göttingen 2003, ISBN 3-8017-1639-2 .
  • Edmund Jacobson: Relaxation as Therapy. Progressive relaxation in theory and practice. From the American by Karin Wirth. 7th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 978-3-608-89112-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Cautela, 1967.
  2. a b Alfred Pritz: Short group psychotherapy: structure, course and effectiveness of autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation and analytically sound short group psychotherapy . Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-642-75493-7 , p. 49 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  3. MR Goldfried, GC Davison: Clinical behavior therapy . Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-642-95354-5 , pp. 69–71 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).
  4. ^ Douglas A. Bernstein, Thomas D. Borkovec: Relaxation training: Handbook of progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson . Klett-Cotta, 2007, ISBN 978-3-608-89056-3 , p. 99 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  5. ^ Klaus Grawe et al .: Psychotherapy in Transition . 1994, pp. 580 ff. (Especially pp. 603-607).
  6. ^ Matthias Berking, Winfried Rief: Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy for Bachelor: Volume II: Therapy Methods. Read, listen, learn on the web . Springer-Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-642-25523-6 , pp. 108 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  7. a b H.-J. Möller, G. Laux, H.-P. Kapfhammer: Psychiatry and Psychotherapy . Springer-Verlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-540-27386-8 , pp. 731 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  8. ^ A b Winfried Rief, Peter Henningsen: Psychosomatics and behavioral medicine . Schattauer, 2015, ISBN 978-3-608-26822-5 ( [accessed June 29, 2018]).