Written by Helen Cooke and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated December 17, 2013

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Abstract and key points

  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves the sequential tensing and relaxation of major skeletal muscle groups with the aim of inducing relaxation.
  • There is insufficient evidence for the effectiveness of PMR for cancer patients suffering from pain, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and chemotherapy-induced nausea.
  • PMR is generally considered to be safe.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) therapy involves sequential tensing and relaxation of major skeletal muscle groups and aims to reduce feelings of tension, to lower perceived stress, and to induce relaxation. PMR is purported to decrease the arousal of the autonomic and central nervous system and to increase parasympathetic activity.

Reports of patients who participated in PMR training following cancer treatment indicate that they experienced reduced state anxiety, pain, and symptoms of depression, as well as improvements in sleep parameters and overall quality of life.

The evidence is however insufficient due to the limited number and low methodological quality of published studies.

PMR is considered to have few adverse effects, although some concern has been raised about the use of relaxation therapy interventions among individuals who have a history of psychiatric disorders.

Citation

Helen Cooke, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Progressive Muscle Relaxation [online document]. http://www.cam-cancer.org/CAM-Summaries/Mind-body-interventions/Progressive-Muscle-Relaxation. December 17, 2013.

Document history

Summary last updated in December 2013 by Helen Cooke.

Summary fully revised and updated in July 2012 by Helen Cooke.

Summary first published in July 2011, authored by Helen Cooke.

References

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