What is the Kabat method?

The Kabat method is one of the techniques of choice in physiotherapy to treat problems of neurological origin. These pathologies are more complex to rehabilitate than others with the muscular origin, but much can do about it.

Next, we will see what it is about, how to do it, and in what situations this technique should be applied.

Kabat method basics

The Kabat method, also known as PNF or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, is a set of techniques to improve neurological origin pathologies. It is used when there is a problem with the nerves that causes the signal emitted by the brain not to reach the muscles correctly.

Therefore, what we seek is to retrain these pathways that have been damaged. We seek to perform movements that remind the nerves of the correct way to function and what the patient wants to do. Over time we will see improvements, as long as the nerve has not been irretrievably damaged.

The exercises of the Kabat method

Specifically, as detailed in an investigation published by the Journal of Human Kinetics, we will carry out exercises that combine muscle stretching, strength, coordination, and proprioception with the Kabat method. We will do this by performing relatively complex movements.

This method works with diagonal movements. For example, a job consists of bringing the right arm from a starting point with the hand in a fist and the wrist flexed at the left hip level. The arm will be straight and in internal rotation.

From this point, we will undo the position until ending in the opposite. The arm extended diagonally above the head and outward, with external rotation, and the wrist and fingers extended. After doing this pattern several times, we would repeat it with the other arm.

By performing these movements, we are forcing the body to work many muscles and in various ways, although at first glance, it may not seem like much. From shoulder to arm, forearm, wrist, and fingers, all must work in unison to perform the movement correctly. Practicing it until we get it will make the nerves recover.

Once the movement is clear, the therapist will be looking to offer resistance to the movement. That is, to force the patient to do it, but working with force. To this end, the therapist will gradually change the hands’ placement to resist both the fingers’ opening and the arm’s movement, and all other movements.

In this way, we gain mobility and improve motor coordination, but we also train muscle strength. This is important because strength also tends to decline when there is an underlying neurological problem.

Slow and with isometric contraction at the end

The next level of difficulty with these exercises is to perform them slowly but steadily, in addition to performing an isometric contraction — straining but not moving your arm — for a few seconds in the end.

Putting it all together, we start with the arm adducted — that is, glued to the trunk — with all the other components. The therapist places his hands on the patient’s hand and shoulder and begins to do the movement against his resistance.

Upon reaching the maximum extension, we will perform a contraction at the site also resisted by the therapist. Next, we will have to perform the reverse movement at the same speed and with the same force. We will arrive at the starting position, and we will contract again on the site. These exercises can also perform in a similar way to the lower limbs.

Stimuli in the Kabat method

In addition to providing the body with internal stimuli, we also help with external stimuli. The therapist will guide the patient with auditory commands, which reinforces the ability to react.

On the other hand, by offering resistance, the patient will better understand where to push. This physical contact also helps to work the receptors of the skin. And helps to improve the entire circuit that integrates the neuromuscular system.

A vital therapy

Cases in which this therapy is indicated include:

  • Central nervous system disorders due to cerebrovascular accidents, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, and other degenerative diseases.
  • Peripheral neuropathies.
  • In trauma, to help the patient recover after amputation or in cases of muscle weakness.
  • Therapy with older people, as explained in a study published by the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology.

As these are cases in which improvement directly and significantly influences the patient’s quality of life. We are talking about therapy of great importance. For this reason, it must be done correctly and go through all the steps described. If this is done, the improvements at the motor level must be sensible.


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