If you’re an athlete, going through physical therapy, tend to live an active lifestyle, have suffered from multiple muscle injuries, or are just looking to increase your flexibility and range of motion, chances are that you likely stretch on a daily or otherwise regular basis. The benefits of stretching have long been known, but did you know that there’s one type of stretching in particular that’s been shown to be more effective than other forms of stretching? PNF stretching, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching, can help increase your range of motion, improve your flexibility, and strengthen your muscles over time. The Injury Centers of Brevard in Brevard County, FL, know the importance of stretching in healthy back muscles, so let us introduce you to the concept of PNF stretches to increase your daily comfort and mobility.
What PNF is
We know you’re probably wondering what PNF is. PNF stretching is a type of stretching that relies on your reflexes and brain’s resistance to muscle injury to provide deep stretches. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation allows your self-preservation reflexes to take effect in order to achieve stretches that are deeper, increase flexibility, and help improve your range of motion. It was developed in the 1940s as a way to combat and relieve symptoms of neuromuscular diseases like polio, and it’s been lauded as one of the most effective means to stretch your muscles without causing harm. Engaging in PNF stretches involves pushing your muscles to the brink of what they can handle. This causes a reflex reaction to kick in, where your brain registers that your muscle might be in danger and sends signals that automatically release the tension in your muscle and provide deeper relaxation in it than is normally possible. This is called the inverse myotatic reflex, which is a protective and involuntary reaction that helps reduce the chances of your muscles being injured.
The types and benefits
There are generally three recognized types of PNF stretching that can dramatically increase your flexibility, range of motion, and daily comfort in your active lifestyle. The first is the simplest and involves merely holding your muscle in a position that stretches it, and then contracting the muscle, triggering the inverse myotatic reflex. The second stretching technique involves isotonic stretching, wherein you stretch the muscle until it’s slightly strained, and then contract it while moving. This also triggers the protective reflex. The final stretching method is similar to the second, only instead of relaxing after the movement of the contracted muscle, you continue to push into the stretch, enhancing the depth of flexibility and motion that’s provided by it. PNF stretches have been shown to be the most effective form of stretching to increase your muscle flexibility and range of motion. Stretching this way often can reduce your risk of future muscle injuries, and it can make your daily activities feel more comfortable and natural as your muscles will be more limber and relaxed. To learn more about the benefits and methods of PNF stretching, feel free to reach out to us or stop by for a consultation with our physician. Muscle health is important to overall health, and your overall health is important to us.