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Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training uses a specialized tourniquet system to reduce the amount of blood flow to an exercising arm or leg. By restricting blood flow, low-intensity exercise can simulate the same effects as a heavy-loaded exercise session and elicit positive adaptations in muscle strength, endurance, and size. The application of BFR in rehabilitation settings allows patients with loading restrictions after surgery, injury, or pain to gain strength adaptations much sooner than they otherwise would with much lower and safer loads.

What are the benefits of Blood Flow Restriction training?

Blood flow restriction training has the same goals as regular strength and endurance types of exercises, but it is able to be performed at a much lower load with the same amount of gains. Some of the most important benefits of BFR include:

  • Increased muscle size
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increased cardiovascular capacity
  • Increased release of growth hormone during exercise
  • Decreased stress on joints and injured tissues
  • Reduced rate of muscle atrophy after injury or surgery

Who would benefit from Blood Flow Restriction training?

BFR training is helpful for any person recovering from injury or surgery who cannot perform heavy resisted exercise. BFR is the most effective when performed with active movement or exercise, but it has benefits even when applied to a stationary arm or leg. Some of the most common populations to use BFR include:

  • Pre-op orthopedic patients
  • Post-op orthopedic patients
  • Geriatric populations
  • Immobilized patients
  • Osteoarthritis or pain during weight-bearing
  • Fracture or weight-bearing restrictions

What to expect from a Blood Flow Restriction training session?

If your therapist determines that you would benefit from BFR therapy, you will be fit with a cuff that is placed either at the top of your arm under your shoulder or at the top of your thigh. The device will measure how much pressure it takes to stop the blood flow in your extremity, which will feel like getting your blood pressure taken. Your therapist will then set the device to the targeted percentage of pressure based on the goals of the treatment session. You will then likely perform a prescribed set of exercises that your therapist will direct you through while wearing the cuff. You will feel a muscle burn from performing the exercise much sooner than expected since there is not as much blood flow in your extremity due to the cuff, but for the vast majority of people the cuff is comfortable and safe to use.

If you are dealing with an injury that might benefit from BFR training or if you are interested in learning more about the treatment, schedule an appointment with Breakthru Physical Therapy + Fitness here.

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