Facilitated stretching is also known as “active assisted stretching,” or “PNF” (Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), and is similar to “active isolated-stretching.” Facilitated stretching utilizes active motion and measured bodywork to enhance motor skills and increase flexibility. Involving the work of one muscle at a time, facilitated stretching is administered by gentle stretches that release the muscle before it has a chance to protectively contract.
Originally developed for patients suffering from paralysis, facilitated stretching is more than just a typical exercise. With the stretcher’s aid, this therapy helps to lengthen and contract specific muscles, relaxing and allowing movement around joint areas. Improving the body’s potential to heal itself, this beneficial exercise enhances overall performance.
In a typical session, the limbs of the client are gently stretched by a partner, practitioner or trainer. Facilitated stretching is often administered by a certified personal fitness trainer, physical therapist or experienced massage therapist, and is known to improve flexibility, range of motion, and to relieve muscle stiffness. As a general rule, stretches should not be painful, so this is a relatively non-invasive and therapeutic exercise.
For the novice or the expert athlete, facilitated stretching is beneficial in improving strength, and can be learned through a continuing education class or PNF seminar/workshop. However, there are a number of educational programs that incorporate this discipline as part of the overall curriculum. For example, there are personal fitness training courses and advanced massage programs that integrate facilitated stretching as part of an extended training course.