Relax and Relax More*

After raising my shoulders and then relaxing it, I felt relaxed. I was totally surprised that the actual muscle tension recorded with surface electromyographic (SEMG)  still showed tension. Only when I gave myself the second instruction, relax even more, that my SEMG activity decreased.

In our experiences, we (Vietta E. Wilson and Erik Peper, 2014)  have observed that muscle tension often does not decrease completely after a person is instructed to relax. The complete relaxation only occurs after the second instruction, relax more, let go, drop, or feel the heaviness of gravity. The person is totally unaware that after the first relaxation their muscless  have not totally relaxed. Their physiology does not match their perception (Peper et, 2010; Whatmore & Kohli, 1974). The low level of muscle tension appears more prevalent in people who are have a history of muscle stiffness or pain, or in athletes whose coaches report they look ‘tight.’ It is only after the second command, relax and release even more, that the individual notices a change and experiences a deeper relaxation.

The usefulness of giving a second instruction, relax more, after the first instruction, relax, is illustrated below by the surface electromyographic (SEMG) recording from the upper left and right trapezius muscle of a 68 year old male with chronic back pain. While sitting upright without experiencing any pain, he was instructed to lift his shoulders, briefly hold the tension, and then relax (Sella, 1997; Peper et al, 2008). When the SEMG of the trapezius muscles did not decrease to the relaxed state, he was asked to relax more as is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Muscle tension

Figure 1. SEMG recordings of the left and right upper trapezius when the client was asked to lift his shoulders, hold, relax, and relax more. Only after the second instruction did the muscle tension decrease to the relaxed baseline level. Reprinted from Wilson and Peper, 2014.

Although the subject felt that he was relaxed after the first relaxation instruction, he continued to hold a low level of muscle tension. We have observed this same process in hundreds of clients and students while teaching SEMG guided relaxation and progressive muscle relaxation.

For numerous people, even the second commands to relax even more is not sufficient for the SEMG to show muscle relaxation and for them to ‘feel’ or know when they are totally relaxed. These individuals may benefit from SEMG biofeedback to identify and quantify the degree of muscle tension. With this information the person can make the invisible muscle contractions ‘ visible,’ the un-felt tension ‘felt,’ and thus develop awareness and control (Peper et al, 2014).

In summary

  1. Instruct people to relax after tightening and then repeat the instruction to relax even more.
  2. Use surface electromyography to confirm whether the person’s subjective experience of being muscularly relaxed corresponds to the actual physiological SEMG recording.
  3. Use the SEMG biofeedback to train the person to increase awareness and learn relaxation (Peper et al, 2014).
  4. Read the complete article from which this blog was adapted: Wilson, E. & Peper, E. (2014). Clinical Tip: Relax and Relax More. 42(4), 163-164.

References

Peper, E., Booiman, A., Lin, I-M., & Shaffer, F. (2014). Making the Unaware Aware-Surface electromyography to unmask tension and teach awareness. Biofeedback. 42(1), 16-23.

Peper, E., Booiman, A., Tallard, M., & Takebayashi, N. (2010). Surface electromyographic biofeedback to optimize performance in daily life: Improving physical fitness and health at the worksite. Japanese Journal of Biofeedback Research, 37(1), 19-28.

Peper, E., Tylova, H., Gibney, K.H., Harvey, R., & Combatalade, D. (2008). Biofeedback mastery-An experiential teaching and self-training manual. Wheat Ridge, CO: AAPB.

 

*This blogpost is adapted from, Wilson, E. & Peper, E. (2014). Clinical tip: Relax and relax more. Biofeedback. 42(4), 163-164.

 


3 Comments on “Relax and Relax More*”

  1. mrsportpsych says:

    Repetitive Strain Injury Computer User Injury With Biofeedback: Assessment & Training Protocol
    Erik Peper, Ph.D. – San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA
    Vietta S. Wilson, Ph.D. York University, Toronto, ON
    Will Taylor, M.D. Blue Hill, ME
    Vicci Tibbetts, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA

    Improper work habits, poor workstation ergonomics, and environment can lead to physiological dysregulation such as muscle soreness, fatigue, and injury (Grandjean, 1987). Some workers develop chronic neck and upper limb pain also known as repetitive strain injury. (RSI), cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) or overuse syndrome, from long hours of repetitive tasks at personal computer workstations. Workers with RSI suffer loss of productivity and income with increasing medical costs. RSI accounted for forty percent of workers compensation cases in 1990. Discomfort and injury can shape the way PC users feel about their job and computers.
    http://www.bfe.org/protocol/pro09eng1.htm

  2. mrsportpsych says:

    Reblogged this on mrsportpsych and commented:
    The surprising and powerful links between posture and mood – The answer to what comes first, Chicken or Egg!

  3. Pam Ellen says:

    Reblogged this on 30 Day Healing Diet and commented:
    Relax and relax more…


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