Using BFR (Blood Flow Restriction) in therapy after an injury or post-operative surgery can speed up recovery time while decreasing muscle loss.
How does Blood Flow Restriction Therapy Work?
BFR is a tool used in rehab that applies a tourniquet similar to a blood pressure cuff proximally to the targeted area and restricts blood flow while being monitored for a short period of time while performing specific low-intensity exercises. BFR allows early exercise without placing excessive loads on the muscle.
In order to build strength studies have shown that heavier loads as high as 70-80% of one-repetition maximums must be lifted but with BFR training only 20-30% of one-repetition maximums can improve strength and muscle size with a shorter time period which in simple terms means that patients can build their strength and muscle size back quicker, without putting unnecessary or avoidable stress on the injury.
Restricting Blood Flow? That doesn’t sound SAFE?!
Ah-ha! At first, it sounds alarming but keep in mind, it’s restricting, not cutting it completely off. With the BFR unit, it only restricts the vessels with high enough pressure to decrease venous return but also still low enough to have arterial blood flow.
While restricting the blood flow while doing low-intensity exercises, it increases protein synthesis, motor recruitment, and Vo2Max all without putting extra loaded stress on the muscles.
Although this treatment sounds new, it’s been around for years and multiple research and evidence have shown comparable evidence of how effective and safe it is in comparison to higher and heavier intensity exercises.
What if I use my own band BFR?
Yes, it’s true. Bands and compression wraps are utilized as a tourniquet for BFR but they are e NOT able to measure the level of occlusion. Without being able to measure the amount of restriction for blood flow, the band can be put on too tight and for too long making it easy for risking injury to the nerves.
At Specialized Physical Therapy, Dr. Sean Simonds is certified in Blood Flow Restriction and has the only FDA approved BFR device that has a Doppler Ultrasound linked to the cuff for the most precise measurements of occlusion.
Who can use or benefit from BFR Therapy?
Here are a few that are BFR is commonly used on but truthfully, almost anyone with muscular weakness or injury can benefit from it:
ACL injuries or other knee injuries
Rotator cuff or shoulder injuries
Achilles tendon injury
Total Knee or Shoulder Replacements
Even those who do not have an injury or recent surgery are able to benefit from BFR Therapy, such as:
Bodybuilders or Powerlifters
CrossFit Athletes or Olympic Weightlifters
Many times after an injury or surgery the amount of weight that an area can tolerate is decreased for longer periods of time. As a result, strength begins to decrease quickly as well as muscle size. But with these types of injuries or surgeries, BFR can be used immediately after to help maintain as well as speed up recovery time.