PNF uses exteroceptors (sensors that process the stimuli from outside the body), tele receptors (eyes and ears) and especially proprioceptors to initiate natural, physiological motion. Proprioceptors are muscle, joint and tendon receptors that relay information about the position and movement of the body to the central nervous system. PNF therapy stimulates the body sensors to spur neuromuscular interaction, i.e.,the interaction between nerves and muscles, thus creating physiological movement patterns to be stored in the the nervous system. While applying measured resistance the therapist leads the patient through a three-dimensional physiological movement pattern ending al a largely healthy part of the body. The central nervous system identifies this common movement pattern as a part of a complex motion pattern. The corresponding information for the muscle activity is then sent to all other body parts. This overflow of activity onto other body parts is called "irradiation". It is also referred to as targeted, walking irradiation, since the overall movement patterns of walking are saved in the central nervous system during the sensormotor development of the child.
PNF is a primary treatment prescribed by a physician for neurological problems only.