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  • Writer's pictureJens Kieling

Are You Experiencing Tension Headaches? Learn How PMR Can Help

What is PMR - PMR stands for progressive muscle relaxation and is a technique that can be self-applied by anyone in a state of stress, anxiety, pain, or simply for relaxation. It is a series of intentional muscle contractions from head to toes that relieve tension in the body to create a state of relaxation.

Prolonged physical tension in the muscles often goes unnoticed by most and can lead to tension headaches. With today's lifestyles, we unknowingly activate the stress response in our body. We may be satisfied with the accomplishments of our day but not with the stress that comes with those accomplishments. When we become stressed, our muscles tighten up. The problem is we don't recognize that physical tension accumulated is a result of unmanaged mental tension. In other words, when we enter a stressful situation, we don't know how to turn off mental tension which results in moving throughout our day carrying the physical baggage of something that happened to us hours ago.

The key is to recognize when muscles are tight and to turn off the stress response before it leads to tension headaches. Most stress accumulates as tension in the shoulder and neck area. Prolonged tightness in this area can compress nerves and restrict blood flow which can result in headaches. PMR can help turn off the stress response mechanism by releasing physical tension. Once physical tension disappears it signals to the brain that the situation is safe and the body can relax once again. When the body relaxes, pain diminishes. Pain has no purpose other than to remind us to change our course of action.

How you can use it

  • Allocate 2-5 minutes of time in your day for PMR

  • Find a quiet space free from distraction (no electronics).

  • PMR can be done sitting or lying down.

  • Close your eyes

  • Take a few deep breaths and follow the steps below

Hold 5 to 10 second contractions with 5 seconds relaxation in-between (3 cycles per muscle group)

  • contract forehead (eyebrows up) 3 sets x 5 seconds

  • contract eyes shut firmly 3 sets x 5 seconds

  • neck tilt down 10 seconds hold gentle stretch

  • neck tilt up 10 seconds hold gentle stretch

  • neck rotate left 10 seconds hold gentle stretch

  • neck rotate right 10 seconds hold gentle stretch

  • shoulder shrug hold 3 sets x 5 seconds

What you should pay attention to during PMR?

  • avoid holding your breath while in contraction phase of this technique, maintain a relaxed and natural breathing rhythm throughout PMR

  • notice the difference between the contracted state and the relaxed state

  • isolate so that only the muscle you are supposed to use is tightening

  • if you find surrounding muscles tightening, lower the intensity of your contraction to help isolate the muscle contraction

I hope this helps you and would love to hear your comments below. How does it help you? If you are interested in learning more or have any questions please connect with me to see how PMR can help you.


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