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What Is PNF Stretching?

PNF has been a revolutionary discovery of the twentieth century in sports medicine and rehabilitation. Sports therapists and elite personal trainers employ PNF techniques to increase patients’ functional capacity. Ranging from basic rehabilitation to top performing athletes any patient’s performance can be enhanced quickly through activating the neuromuscular system through the use of PNF.

Range of motion is closely linked to two main elements. The relation between agonist ant antagonist contraction closely defines a patient’s ability to stabilise a joint through its full range of motion. Once a lack of fibre recruitment exists, due to an inhibited neuron transmission full muscle contraction will not be utilised giving less ability for full range movements and joint stability. The other element for achieving range of motion is closely related to the first element the Golgi tendon organ. The Golgi tendon organ is made up of collagen, one end of the collagen fibres connect into the tendon and the other into the muscle. The main focus the Golgi tendon organ has on range of motion is through muscle control and the amount of force that can be applied to that muscle. The type Ib afferent axon that lies in a fibrous capsule with connecting tendons to the capsule nerve ending exit this capsule and transmit and receive neurotransmission.

Muscle contraction and relaxation has opposing forces that exist to protect the body from overload and injury. The Golgi Tendon Organ is closely responsible for innervating muscle contraction when a load is exerted on the given muscle. PNF uses techniques to overstretch the agonist thereby causing the nerve response from the Golgi organ tendon to send neurotransmission attempting to stop any increase in range of motion, however, after a certain point the muscle tendon relaxed as the safety mechanism of the Golgi Organ Tendon is overcome providing greater range of motion. This greater range of motion allows the antagonist to contract harder, and in future, the new increased range of motion will only recruit the Golgi Tendon Organ when overload is again attempted through either weights or stretching.

In conclusion, PNF is a quick and effective way to increase the range of motion in a given muscle group, providing a greater reflex response from the antagonist in the given movement of contraction. Stimulating the nervous system increases muscle awareness and explosive power, PNF should be utilised in any sports or rehabilitation program. 



Gray.H.(2004), Grays Anatomy. (London) united kingdom. Churchill Livingstone

James R. Scifers, DScPT, SCS, LAT, ATC. Advance for Physical Therapists and PT Assistants, December 6, 2004.

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