Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is a type of stretching often used by massage therapists and other health-care professionals to comfortably stretch clients' muscles. PNF stretching was created by Dr. Herman Kabat, and Margaret Knott, PT.
The 2 most common ‘types’ of PNF stretches are hold-relax and hold-contract. Hold-relax is used when there is pain present in the muscle being stretched. This is preformed by putting the desired muscle into a stretched position, holding for 30 seconds, having the client contract the muscle without moving it for 8 seconds, before relaxing again and allowing the therapist to stretch the muscle further. Contract-relax only differs slightly, where instead of contracting the muscle without moving it (isometric), the client pushes again the therapists resistance using 30-80% of their strength to contract the muscle (concentric) back to a neutral position. Contract-relax is used when there is no pain present in the muscle.
These techniques are commonly used on the quads, calves and hamstrings, the pectorals, as well as forearm flexors and extensors, but can be used on a much wider variety of muscles in the body. PNF stretching can increase flexibility in the short-term of a massage treatment, but to maintain and potentially increase flexibility, it must be maintained at home as homecare. Stretching 3 times, 30 seconds each time, daily can maintain and increase flexibility between treatment sessions and assist in decreased pain and discomfort.
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