Blood Flow Restriction Training

Blood Flow Restriction Training (BFR) can be a tool in every licensed physical therapist’s scope of practice. Physical therapy can help those who have suffered a loss of function or are experiencing chronic pain. Exercising and building muscle can improve recovery, eliminate pain, and improve your overall health, but for some, it can be difficult. Recently undergoing surgery, an acute or chronic condition, or even degeneration over time can make high-intensity exercise challenging, which is where BRF comes into play.

Muscle is our foundation for movement. It’s the only tissue in the body with a contractile component and it can help offload stress off the body’s joints. Building muscle is an excellent way to prevent future injury, improve your strength, optimize movement, and improve your overall function. Developing muscle is a foundational component of physical therapy and can significantly improve your recovery.

What is BFR?

BFR is a form of training that involves the occlusion (closing) of blood flow to a certain area of the body during exercise in order to maximize the intensity of your workout. Our bodies build muscle through stress and strain, usually in the form of exercise. By restricting blood flow to certain areas of the body, you also reduce the oxygen supply to that region, which will cause your body to fatigue much faster and stimulate muscle hypertrophy. That increased stress on the targeted region of your body will, in turn, increase the development of type two muscle fibers. By blocking blood flow to certain areas, you’ll also have a build up of lactic acid, which will cause your body to release growth hormone, leading to an increase in muscle size.

There are a couple of ways to occlude blood flow from the area of the body you’d like to target. Ideally, a physical therapist will utilize an automated blood pressure cuff in order to measure the precise percentage of occlusion necessary.

What are the benefits?

Many people can benefit from BFR, including those undergoing post-operative rehabilitation, immobilized patients, geriatric patients, and more. BFR is a great way to fight atrophy in the body without putting much pressure on the body and joints that might be irritated or compromised.

“It is a great way to address strength deficits without causing any effect on the integrity of something that might be surgically repaired (when appropriate), or an area of the body that might be irritated,” said Jordan Lee, PT, DPT of TPMG Physical Therapy. Research shows that you need to stress and strain a muscle at about 65 to 70 percent of what your one rep max would be in order to see an improvement in regards to strength of a muscle. Those of advanced age or people in recovery might not be able to reach that threshold with regular exercise, which is where BFR comes in. Through BFR training, patients can exercise at a lower intensity, but receive the same benefits of a high-intensity workout.

How can I get started?

While anyone can perform, there are risks to the training if not performed correctly. If you think you may benefit from BFR training, it’s best to consult with a physical therapist or athletic trainer. A physical therapist will be able to monitor your body for any side effects or adverse reactions. They will also ensure you’re receiving the most benefit from the training. Want to get started on BFR training? Talk to a TPMG physical therapist today about how you can get started.

jordan lee

About Jordan Lee, PT, DPT

As a certified physical therapist, Jordan Lee, PT, DPT,  has experience treating sports medicine, post-op rehabilitation, and outpatient orthopedic patients. As a provider, he is fully invested in creating a therapeutic alliance with each patient and providing exceptional care. At TPMG Physical Therapy, he treats patients of all ages for orthopedic/sports medicine conditions. He performs treatment interventions such as dry needling, manual therapy, and spinal manipulation, along with therapeutic exercises that optimize movement and improve the quality of life of his patients. He has special interests in treating rotational athletes such as golfers, as well as foot and ankle pathologies. Jordan practices active communication by listening to patient concerns and guiding them in the right direction in terms of their recovery.

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