PNF (or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) is a stretching method used to promote flexibility, muscle strength and enhanced body movement. This technique can be particularly helpful for boosting athletic performance and preventing muscle soreness after activity.
Initially developed as a way to restore motion in patients with polio and multiple sclerosis, the popularity of PNF spread because of its positive effects on the muscles and increase in overall functionality of the body.
Athletes were quick to include this form of stretching in their training programmes as a means to improve performance and prevent injury. PNF helps in gaining both active and passive ranges of motion and as a result, modifies movement patterns.
5 Benefits of PNF Stretching
1. Protection from injuries: The deep stretching techniques involved in PNF activate a protective reflex (called the inverse myotatic reflex) which relieves tension on your muscles and helps them relax. This reflex protects your muscles from injuries while giving them the capability to stretch beyond their limit.
2. Functional goals: As part of rehabilitation programmes, PNF techniques are designed to help you achieve specific functional goals such as better balance, steady walking patterns and stronger muscles. For this purpose, selected muscle groups are often targeted – hamstrings, glutes, back or hip flexors.
3. Stroke rehabilitation: A study published in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies showed that PNF is a safe and effective way of improving stability, raising lower body strength and increasing walking speed in older adults following a chronic stroke. All these factors are important to prevent the risk of falling.
4. Muscle flexibility: In sports, increased muscle flexibility reduces the risk of muscle strain injuries in athletes. The hamstring muscles are the most frequently injured during sports. The success of PNF stretching in improving hip flexion range has been clearly proven in a study published in the World Journal of Medical Sciences.
5. Increased range of motion: Compared to other forms of stretching, PNF is considered to be more effective for immediate gains in range of motion. This makes it ideal for the treatment of conditions like knee osteoarthritis; stretching causes an increase in the length of the muscle, also known as ‘muscle extensibility’.
Things to Remember Before Stretching
If you’re unsure about how to begin a PNF stretching routine, consult a movement specialist. They’re the experts and will be able to guide you in both, designing and performing the different stretching maneuvers.
Ideally, PNF should always follow 10-15 minutes of moderate exercise, with one stretch per muscle group performed in each session. It would be a good idea to focus on your breathing through the stretches while avoiding any kind of stress that could tighten your muscles.
MASS4D® foot orthotics can be used to assist in guiding the healthy movement of the muscles and joints of individuals with foot posture issues. This is achieved through an improvement in overall posture to help restore a healthy range of motion in both the muscular and skeletal system.
With the muscles and joints functioning efficiently, you’re able to get the most out of PNF stretches which, in turn, can help you enhance performance with minimum risk of injury.
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Reference: Cayco, C. S., Gorgon, E. J. R., Lazaro, R. T. (2017) Effects of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation on Balance, Strength, and Mobility of an Older Adult with Chronic Stroke: A Case Report. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies: October 2017, Vol. 21, pp. 767-774
Reference: Barta, K. (2017) PNF Stretching: A How-To Guide. Healthline: February 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com
Reference: Victoria, G. D., Carmen, E., Alexandru, S., Antoanela, O., Florin, C., Daniel, D. (2013) The PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretching Technique – A Brief Review. Science, Movement and Health: 2013, Vol. 13, Suppl. 2, pp. 623-628
Reference: Sandel, M. E. (2013) Dr. Herman Kabat: Neuroscience in Translation...From Bench to Bedside. American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: 2013, Vol. 5, No. 6, pp. 453-461
Reference: Page, P. (2012) Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: February 2012, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 109-119.
Reference: Zakaria, A., Rao, G., Buragadda, M., Buragadda, S. (2012) Efficacy of PNF Stretching Techniques on Hamstring Tightness in Young Male Adult Population. World Journal of Medical Sciences: 2012, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 23-26
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