Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (or PNF) is an advanced type of flexibility therapy. PNF is built on a series of exercises that focus on stretching; first contracting then relaxing, stiff or painful muscles in the body.
Originally used as a rehabilitative therapy, PNF is very effective when it comes to improving flexibility, strength and range of motion in a damaged or stiff muscle. Its often used to treat lower back, neck and shoulder pain associated with poor posture.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation exercises are meant to re-educate clients on the safest and most natural ways to move their bodies. The theory behind PNF is that a person will often develop sloppy postures and habits when they move. These bad movements, when used repetitively over time, can put chronic strain on the muscles, causing soreness, stress and eventually leading to injury if not corrected. When PNF exercises are performed correctly, the client will eventually adapt them into their everyday movements, and their muscle spasms and pain will decrease greatly.
PNF therapy encourages body-mind awareness — to think consciously of the safest ways to move, as well as estimating the approximate force needed to perform a task beforehand. This is because, oftentimes, the human body exerts far more strength than needed to perform simple tasks. In addition, when a task is performed improperly the body risks injury. Once PNF is learned, the client will think before moving and will eventually notice an increase in their range of motion, balance, muscle strength, endurance and flexibility.
When PNF exercises are performed, the client is asked to contract the muscle against static resistance (usually supplied by the therapist). The client is guided through a series of muscle contractions followed by periods of muscle relaxation. Clients are also shown demonstrations of proper movements, followed by a session of partner-assisted stretching. Afterwards the client is given visual examples and the therapist provides movement feedback.