Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, also sometimes referred to as “PNF” is a technique that is used primarily to increase flexibility and range of motion. In research studies, it has shown to be an effective method for improving active as well as passive range motions. It is also used by the therapist to assist clients in regaining strength after they have experienced soft tissue damage.
There are Two Primary Methods used in Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
- The contract-relax methods (CR)
- The contract-relax-antagonist-contract method (CRAC)
The CR method involves stretching out the muscle being targeted in the session and then contracting it while it is in its lengthened state followed by a passive stretch without contraction.
The CRAC method uses the same first three steps of the CR method but is followed by an additional period of contracting the muscle in its lengthened/stretched state rather than just a passive stretch. There are also other techniques out there, and which one your therapist will use for you depends on your unique circumstances.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation can Also Improve Exercise Performance
If you exercise on a regular basis or play a competitive sport, you may also want to look at PNF. It has been found that when PNF is performed after exercise, it can improve muscle performance. However, it is important to note that research has shown that it can decrease performance if it is performed before exercise. To maintain increased performance, a session should be done a couple of times per week.
Proper Protocol and Consistency are Key
Both the CR and CRAC methods of PNF have been shown to effectively improve range of motion, and increase muscle function, but it is important that the proper protocol is being followed if you want it to work for you and provide consistent results. So, be sure that the person you’re working with is qualified and has received adequate training.