Progressive muscle relaxation (or PMR) is a technique for reducing anxiety by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles. It was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. Jacobson argued that since muscular tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce anxiety by learning how to relax the muscular tension. PMR entails a physical and mental component. The physical component involves the tensing and relaxing of muscle groups over the arms, legs, face, abdomen and chest. With the eyes closed and in a sequential pattern, a tension in a given muscle group is purposefully done then released before continuing with the next muscle group.
The mental component focuses on the difference between the feelings of the tension and relaxation. Because the eyes are closed, one is forced to concentrate on the sensation of tension and relaxation. Because of the feelings of warmth and heaviness are felt in the relaxed muscle after it is tensed, a mental relaxation is felt as a result. With practice, the patient learns how to effectively relax and deter anxiety when it becomes at an unhealthy level where an anxiety attack would otherwise occur.