Aims The aim of this paper is to critically review the evidence base for the use of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) in physiotherapy practice. Given the evolving understanding of underlying physiological concepts and research developments in the more than 50 years since Herman Kabat originated the concept, there is a need to review the current evidence base. Method Empirical studies investigating the effectiveness of PNF for increasing range of movement and functional rehabilitation for clinical and non-clinical populations along with patterns and irradiation concepts were reviewed. Results Although it was difficult to draw definitive conclusions due to the lack of cognate studies and varying methodological quality of papers, a number of studies did demonstrate encouraging results for the use of PNF, particularly with regard to increasing range of movement. Conclusions Further research is needed to explore individual components of PNF therapeutic approaches and their wider application in key clinical populations such as stroke with standardized outcome measures appropriate to clinical practice. Secondly there is need for the development of new paradigms to fully consider the underlying physiological concepts explaining the effectiveness of PNF.