As a matter of fact, a lot of patients who have had an injury still experience pain and stiffness with certain movements and activities even after completion of conventional physical therapy. This limitation makes it difficult for patients to fully return to activities they were able to perform and enjoy before their injury. The issue is that proper postural and movement patterns are not properly evaluated and addressed during the rehab phase, and this could be the final piece of the puzzle. An important approach I would like to focus as an adjunct to other treatment interventions is PNF.
PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. It originated in the late 1940s by Dr. Kabat and Maggie Knott to provide tools to help patients gain efficient motor function (Adler 1993). A simpler translation of PNF is the use of sensory receptors in the skin to stimulate nerves and muscles, to allow for easier and more efficient movement patterns. PNF is a specific treatment approach used to improve movement, coordination, stability, strength, endurance, and overall function. It can be used to treat any body part from the cervical spine to the foot.
Pain is an inhibitor of effective and coordinated muscle performance and it can be a sign of potential harm (Hislop 1960, Fisher 1967). This is always addressed during every treatment session. During a session, a patient assumes a position that allows for the most effective movement of a specific body part. The therapist uses manual contact to initiate and facilitate a specific movement pattern. This treatment approach requires active patient participation and involvement making it functional. It also allows for integrative manual therapy skills to be incorporated into the treatment session. This approach requires one-on-one therapist attention since it is tapered to each individual patient.
After a couple of sessions, patients see a significant improvement with postural and movement patterns needed in everyday activities. They also develop easier and less painful movement patterns, thus allowing them to return to activities they were doing before their injury, pain-free. This makes PNF a highly cost effective and efficient tool in today’s medicine, where patients are looking for ways to decrease pain and improve function in fewer treatment sessions and with the best outcomes.