Jacobson's relaxation technique

Synonyms

Muscle relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation, relaxation response, relaxation therapy.

Background

Jacobson's relaxation technique, also called progressive relaxation therapy, and was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson over half a century ago. Jacobson developed over 200 exercises and techniques which, taken together, relax the entire body by releasing muscular tension that accumulates as a person experiences a stressful situation. Jacobson, and those who have followed in his footsteps, claim that this technique will cure not only tight muscles and cramps, but also reduces the intensity of pain, and relieve stress and anxiety.

Today, the 200 exercises developed by Jacobson have been reduced to between 15 and 20 exercises. In order to receive maximum benefit, it is recommended to practice this technique every day for at least 20 minutes at the same time every day in a quiet, comfortable place.

Jacobson founded the International Stress Management Association, which continues his work to this day. The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) produces publications and offers trainings in Jacobson's relaxation therapy.

Jacobson's relaxation technique, also called progressive relaxation therapy, and was developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson over half a century ago. Jacobson developed over 200 exercises and techniques which, taken together, relax the entire body by releasing muscular tension that accumulates as a person experiences a stressful situation. Jacobson, and those who have followed in his footsteps, claim that this technique will cure not only tight muscles and cramps, but also reduces the intensity of pain, and relieve stress and anxiety.

Today, the 200 exercises developed by Jacobson have been reduced to between 15 and 20 exercises. In order to receive maximum benefit, it is recommended to practice this technique every day for at least 20 minutes at the same time every day in a quiet, comfortable place.

Jacobson founded the International Stress Management Association, which continues his work to this day. The International Stress Management Association (ISMA) produces publications and offers trainings in Jacobson's relaxation therapy.

Technique

This therapy involves initial tension followed by relaxation. For example, an individual may be instructed to choose a part of the body, and tighten the muscles in that area as much as possible for 7-10 seconds. Patients are asked to concentrate on the buildup of tension that occurs as the muscles are flexed in that particular area of the body for these seconds. After the 7-10 seconds have passed, the patient completely relaxes the area that was tightened. A patient would then wait about 15 seconds before moving on to another part of the body. It is recommended that all of the other areas of the body stay as relaxed as possible while concentrating on specific body parts or areas.

Theory/evidence

Clinical research studies have generally shown that Jacobson's relaxation technique does indeed lessen muscle tightness, relax the patient, and reduces the patient's experience of pain.

A study published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback found that patients who practiced progressive muscle relaxation showed a decreased amount of cortisol, which typically increases during the body's response to stress.

In a 2001 study, this therapy was found to decrease anxiety and improve quality of life for patients recovering from heart attacks.

Another study, published in the Latin American Journal of Nursing, found that patients experienced a decreased sensation of pain after using this therapy. Though larger studies on this therapy are needed, the preliminary results of smaller studies are promising.

The exact mechanism that makes this therapy effective is not known.


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