Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)

Senior patient undergoing rehabilitation.Med1Care Therapy Partner’s physical therapists are trained to provide personalized Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) to improve motor performance. Studies suggest PNF, which promotes multiple-plane joint movements, is the most effective stretching technique for increasing range of motion and decreasing pain.

Developed in 1940s to treat neuromuscular conditions like polio and multiple sclerosis (MS), PNF stretches a muscle near its limit, triggering a protective reflex (inverse myotatic reflex) that prevents the muscle from tearing.

PNF is an effective way to increase flexibility and range of motion. Arthritic pain can also be reduced with PNF.

What are the 3 stages of PNF?

The three primary techniques of PNF are Hold-Relax, Contract-Relax and Hold-Relax-Contract. They are easiest to do when supported by an additional person, but they can be modified to do on your own with straps.

Here are the three primary PNF techniques:

  • Hold-Relax:The muscle is put into a passively stretched position for a few seconds. Without moving, contract the muscle to trigger the reflex, such as by pushing against the stretch. This should allow a few seconds of time to relax into a deeper than normal stretchwhile exhaling.
  • Contract-Relax: This technique is almost identical to the Hold-Relax technique, except rather than contracting the muscle without moving, you contract the muscle while moving (isotonic stretching).
  • Hold-Relax-Contract:This technique is almost identical to the Hold-Relax technique, except that after pushing against the stretch, instead of relaxing into a deeper stretch, you actively push into the stretch.

A wide variety of muscle and soft tissue conditions are benefited by Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), as well as musculature that is overused or held in static positions.

Read more about Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) here.

How We Can Help

Med1Care Therapy Partner’s experienced therapists are trained in Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) to help:

  • Improve chronic back pain
  • Improve knee osteoarthritis
  • Reduce soreness following exercise (delayed onset muscle soreness)
  • Decrease anxiety and stress
  • Increase quality of life among patients with terminal illness, including cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS) patients
  • Support pain management for a variety of conditions, including fibromyalgia and arthritis

Your treatment plan may be combined with massage, myofascial release or   hot or cold therapy to decrease pain and stiffness and improve tissue elasticity and mobility. We will partner with your physician to help you build a road to recovery.

Call us at 419.866.0555 to schedule a consultation.
Our specialists will help you chart a course forward.

Both athletic and clinical environments commonly use Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) to enhance passive and active range of motion. You might wonder which PNF stretch is the most effective.

A summary of the research suggests the range of motion improvements are best with an active PNF stretch, placing the target muscle into a stretch, followed by a few seconds of light static contraction (20% or less than maximum voluntary contraction).

Read more about PNF stretching here.

PNF stretching either requires assistance or the use of straps for solo stretching. A small study of 13 active adults compared assisted and unassisted PNF stretching and found similar increases in flexibility and range of motion between both groups. However, limb velocity and movement time were impaired in both, so the stretch is not advised before important competitions.

Read more about PNF stretching here.

Yes. A 2020 study examining a 12-week PNF intervention in 76 elderly patients found several benefits, including:

  • Reduced osteoarthritic pain generally and while descending stairs
  • Improved range of motion in hips, knees and ankles
  • Decreased minimum knee flexion angles
  • Increased hip adduction moment (HAM) during stair descent

Read more about the PNF and knee osteoarthritis here.