PEAK TESTOSTERONE

The Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation

What's a little neuroses among friends? Not much nowadays. Mental disorders are shockingly common in modern, industrialized societies. There are many reasons for this, including poor diet, chronic stress, lack of social support, lack of sleep and so on. Low testosterone can also increase anxiety, mood disorders and depression. Regardless of the reason, men are struggling with maintaining mental health and very often turning to pharmaceuticals for help.

This is problematic for many reasons including the many side effects of the typical drugs in this class.  And long term safetly is simply not known either.  Even worse, these medications often punch below the belt and lead to erectile dysfunction, orgasmic dysfunction or loss of libido.  (See this link on Erectile Dysfunction Drugs for some information.)

Sadly, many men turn to a pharmaceutical answer simply because it's easy and seems legitimized by the fact a physician recommended it without even thinking there might be a more natural alternative.  Here is where Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can step into help and provide huge benefits.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a very simple technique that can be done by anyone in a relatively short amount of time.

And it has huge benefits.  Most of these benefits are in the psychological realm, because PMR is a proven cortisol reducer.  However, Progressive Muscle Relaxation also has the huge benefit of optimizing testosterone and erection through this same cortisol-lowering mechanism. Remember: anytime you lower cortisol, you are likely going to support and even improve testosterone (and muscle gains).  (NOTE: Elevated cortisol can even destroy neurons!  In fact, I have a number of (I hope) informative articles on How Cortisol Affects Men.

Remember that one of our biggest enemies is cortisol.  In fact, I have a number of (I hope) informative articles on How Cortisol Affects Men. And PMR is a specialist when it comes to cortisol control.  Again, although, no studies echo this, anything that effective manages cortisol, stress and poor mental states is going to improve erection-related issues (and relationships in general).

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What about meditation instead?  Meditation is great but 1) generally requires a greater time commitment and 2) often comes with spiritual overtones which makes many men uncomfortable.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a straightforward,. secular technique widely used in the psychological community that was designed by a physician and psychotherapist, i.e. no gurus need be involved.  (There are several good books and many web articles on secular meditation as well for those interested.)

So consider these 15 Great Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation and get started asap:

1.  Blood Pressure. One study out of Taiwan on men with hypertension (high blood pressure) showed that PMR had an immediate effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, lowering them by an average of 5.44 and 3.48 mm, respectively. [1] And four weeks later, the participants had any additonal decreases in blood pressure of  5.1 and 3.1 mm, respectively.

These are very respectable improvements, but one study showed even more amazing gains.  For even more - more than 30 actually - ways to lower blood pressure, see the this link on Erectile Dysfunction and Hypertension.

2.  Pulse. The first study above showed a powerful ability to lower pulse rate, lowering it by 2.35 beats/min initially and 2.9 beat/min additionally (after four weeks). [1] For more information on the important of your heart rate, see the this link on Pulse and Cardiovascular Health.

3. Cortisol.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation has been shown in several studies to decrease cortisol levels. Furthermore, it works very well even when the abbreviated form of PMR is used. [13][14]

4. Dopamine. PMR, at least, was found in Parkinson's patients to increase dopamine levels. [16] Many of us, undoubtedly, have lost some of our ability to make dopamine as we age and thus it seems likely that PMR can raise dopamine somewhat even in non-Parkinson's men.  

5.  Anxiety.  A number of studies have shown in a variety of populations that Progressive Muscle Relaxation can help relieve the actual symptoms of stress as well. For example, one study of victims with cancer showed that PMR was as very close to being as effective as a medication cocktail. [2] PMR did the same thing with patients who were suffering from chronic breathing difficulties. [3]

6.  Depression.  Both of the above studies showed patients significantly improving their depression. [2][3] Again, these studies and a few other like them show that this simple relaxation technique helps the men that need it most.  The higher your stress, the more likely Progressive Muscle Relaxation is to make a big difference. For additional information, see this link on Research-Backed Depression Cures.

7. Insomnia.  Many studies have shown that Progressive Muscle Relaxation help with many kinds of insomnia.[4][5][6] I know that I have received significant positive feedback after giving this to many men to help with falling asleep. For other research-backed methods, see this link on Practical Sleep Aids.

8. Neurotic Persons.  Are you a high stress person? One study showed that PMR helped lower the stress response in neurotic individuals. [7] It will likely help almost anyone under chronic stress and acting a little "eccentric" as well.  (See #6.)

9) Unusually Stressful Situations.  Several studies show that muscle relaxation can help with stressful situations, one of the most severe being a study on chemo patients. [8] It also decreased the nausea and vomiting associated before and after the therapy.

10. Panic Disorder. A couple of studies show that PMR can help reduce symptoms of panic disorder. [9] However, it doesn't seem to work in all patients in this area, but is certainly worth a try.  It may best be used incombination with other therapies. One study found that it improved signficantly 38% of patients though, even when used by itself. [10]

11. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Returning war veterans and many other men who have suffered a traumatic past can suffer from this debilitating condition that is very hard on heart and brain health.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation has done well in a couple of studies with PTSD, both solo and in conjunction with other therapies. [11]

12. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). One study showed good results and the authors wrote that "Both individual and group interventions proved to be equally effective at reducing distress caused by OCD symptoms, general depression, and anxiety by the end of treatment, although patients in the individual behavior therapy condition demonstrated faster reductions in OCD symptom severity. Patients in the group and individual behavioral interventions were able to maintain their gains at 6-month follow-up. Implications of these findings for outpatient treatment are discussed.." [23]

13. Handling Stress.  Many studies have shown that practitioners manage stress more effectively than controls. [15] PMR affects the stress hormone - see #3 - as well as perceived stress and stress reactions as well.

14. Inflammation (TNF Alpha and IL-6).  A number of studies have shown that many men can lower their TNF alpha and IL-6 through PMR. The two cytokines play a valuable role in the body but also trigger the nasty inflammatory cascades that cause so many problems and lead to hardening of the arteries, diabetes and many autoimmune disease and cancers. One study took second year med students - a pretty stressed out crowd if there ever was one - and put them under stress. It was found that those who practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation twice per day (for 15 minutes using an Abbreviated form that concentrated on the upper extremities) had greatly reduced TNF alpha levels (and IL-6). [20] If your stress levels are low, the benefit will undoubtedly be less, but how many reading this are not under a nearly constant assault of various stressors that are part of modern life?

15. Memory.  It is no secret that cortisol is hard on neurons and the brain in general. Stress can literally unwire your neurons and one of the most vulnerable locations is the hippocampus, which has been shown to actually shrink under a variety of stressful conditions. This is why several studies have found that PMR can increase memory in several subpopulations, such as seniors and those with mild to medium dementia. [21][22] If you are middle-aged or beyond, you will very likely experience a memory boost from regular practice.

As you can see, Progressive Muscle Relaxation helps with almost every major psychological issue.  Few doubt that it will not help with the everyday stressors of life and offer cognitive and psychological protection and maintenance at the same time.ors of life and offer cognitive and psychological protection and maintenance at the same time.

HOW DO YOU DO PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION?  One of the nice things about Progressive Muscle Relaxation is that it is very easy to do. Medititation can take significantly more discipline and experience - it's well worth it of course! - but with PMR you can get started almost instantly. Basically, you just tense and release all the muscle groups one by one. I have always started at my feet and worked my way up to the face. However, you can start north and head south as well. I tense for about 10 seconds and then release for 20 seconds and do this most nights before sleep, because it is so helpful in getting me to instantly fall asleep. Here is an article that describes more detail as to how to do it but recommends 5 seconds of tension and 10 of release: PMR Protocol (Australian Government Site). The key thing is that you should feel VERY relaxed after doing this, and, of course, you don't want to overtense any injured areas.

WEIGHT LIFTERS:  Notice that PMR will likely help protect your hard-earned muscle by limiting cortisol levels.

REFERENCES:

1)  Holist Nurs Pract., 2003 Jan-Feb, 17(1):41-7. "Effects of progressive muscle relaxation on blood pressure and psychosocial status for clients with essential hypertension in Taiwan"

2) JCO, June 1991, 9(6):1004-1011, "A randomized clinical trial of alprazolam versus progressive muscle relaxation in cancer patients with anxiety and depressive symptoms"

3) Psychother Psychosom 2008;77:119-125, "Effects of Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training on Anxiety and Depression in Patients Enrolled in an Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program"

4) APPLIED PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY AND BIOFEEDBACK, 1976, 1(3):253-271, "Biofeedback and progressive relaxation treatment of sleep-onset insomnia: A controlled, all-night investigation"

5) Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Sep 1983, 14(3):251-256, "Treatment of insomnia in cancer patients using muscle relaxation training"

6) Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Jun 1974, 83(3):253-260, "A comparison of progressive relaxation and autogenic training as treatments for insomnia"

7) Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Jun 1978, 46(3):389-404, "Psychophysiological effects of progressive relaxation in anxiety neurotic patients and of progressive relaxation and alpha feedback in nonpatients"

8) SUPPORTIVE CARE IN CANCER, (2005), 13(10):826-833, "Efficacy of progressive muscle relaxation training and guided imagery in reducing chemotherapy side effects in patients with breast cancer and in improving their quality of life"

9) Behavior Therapy, Spring 1989, 20(2):261�282, "Behavioral treatment of panic disorder"

10) Behaviour Research and Therapy, 2988, 26(1):13-22, "Applied relaxation vs progressive relaxation in the treatment of panic disorder"

11) Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Dec 1994, 25(4):283�291, "A trial of eye movement desensitization compared to image habituation training and applied muscle relaxation in post-traumatic stress disorder"

12) Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Aug 1992, 9(4):365�370, "The treatment of substance abusers diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder: An outcome study"

13) APPLIED PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGY AND BIOFEEDBACK, 2005, 30(4):375-387, "The Impact of Abbreviated Progressive Muscle Relaxation on Salivary Cortisol and Salivary Immunoglobulin A (sIgA)"

14) Biological Psychology, July 2002, 60(1):1-16, "The impact of abbreviated progressivemuscle relaxation on salivary cortisol"

15) International Journal of Stress Management, Aug 2006, 13(3):273-290, "Effects of a single session of large-group meditation and progressive muscle relaxation training on stress reduction, reactivity, and recovery"

16) Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, Jul 2002, 6(3):177-182, "Parkinson's disease symptoms are differentially affected by massage therapy vs. progressivemusclerelaxation: a pilot study"

19) Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Dec 2001, 51(6):721-728, "The effects of stress management on symptoms of upperrespiratory tract infection, secretory immunoglobulin A, and mood in young adults"

20) Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Accepted Jun 27 2008, "Counter-stress effects of relaxation on proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines"

21) Exp Aging Res, 1984 Winter;10(4):211-4, "Effects of relaxation and mnemonics on memory, attention and anxiety in the elderly"

22) Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 1999, 9(1):31-34, "Progressive Muscle Relaxation in the Management of Behavioural Disturbance in Alzheimer's Disease"

23) Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, Mar 1993, 181(3), "A Comparison of Behavioral Group Therapy and Individual Behavior Therapy in Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder"