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What Is PNF?

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF, created in the 1940s is often implemented in many facets of therapy such as orthopedics, pediatrics, and neuroscience. This technique is specifically used in fields such as physical therapy and occupational therapy. Therapist often use PNF as a means to manually facilitating a group of muscles that are weak in comparison to adjacent muscles. This weakening often occurs due to under use of a muscle or muscle groups leading to over compensations. When this weakness occurs, the joints that rely on these muscles for movement no longer are moving the way they are suppose to. These joints can include those in ones pelvis or shoulder girdle which can then go on to affect the joints that are directly related negatively impacting total body movement. Through the proper amount of education and hands on training, a therapist will be able to assess one's posture and movement patterns as well as weakness in the area in question in order to implement PNF to improve patient function.

What is patient function? If a patient who is struggling to lift his or her right lower extremity when ambulating (walking) or running in comparison to their left leg, a therapist would be able to identify what in that patients movement pattern is not working as it should. When assessing a patient's movements patterns a therapist is observing for quality of movement, which is the ability to implement the proper amount of muscular activation and endurance as well as motor control. This is where one’s present muscular weakness at one or more joints comes into play. With all this in mind the therapist goal for the patient who cannot bring their right leg up as efficiently as their left leg when ambulating, is to use as little energy but still get the job done. It is with PNF that this can be accomplished.

By now you’re probably asking, am I candidate for PNF? What if I had surgery? PNF can be completed by essentially anyone, those who are the injury can be acute or chronic post-op or repetitive. This is due to its focus at strengthening specific muscles rather than global, avoiding too much movement that may be contradictory to patient’s initial recovery. PNF itself is a multi-step technique that can allow the therapist to focus on treatment of certain aspect of the movement in question before moving onto something too complicated for the patient, making it applicable for many patients.

At this point one must be asking him or herself why is PNF important? One must first understand that PNF works to improve the body's movement in different directions not just one. Think about when you go to brush your teeth. You have to move your arm across your body in a diagonal fashion or the baseball pitcher throwing a ball moving his arms across his body or the runner that rotates his or her hips with every step. Everyday movement relies on different movements not the same one over and over. PNF can be used on anyone from professional athletes, the patient who wants to run with their dog or play catch with their kid. Allowing people to move safely and efficiently throughout their activities of daily living and participation activities.

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