Blood Flow Restriction
Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFR) is a technique for improving muscle strength by partially restricting the blood flow to an injured body part. This technique has been around for several decades but received particular attention at the Tokyo Olympics. In fact, our military uses it to avoid amputation of both the upper and lower extremities.
Restricting the blood flow to the working muscles during exercise allows you to get similar benefits in muscular strength and growth as you would using heavier or more intense loads. By using this technique patients can reduce their recovery time, improve muscle growth, and return to normal function faster.
How does BFR work?
The body is constantly moving oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and exchanging it for the waste, which it takes away from the muscles. The restriction of the blood flow decreases the oxygen going to the muscles and the compression causes metabolites to accumulate. The metabolites are one of the ingredients needed to build muscle within the body. When the compression is reduced or relieved, the flood gates open, releasing the metabolites and oxygen to the muscles allowing them to grow and heal.
With BFR, pneumatic tourniquet-like cuffs are applied to an injured body part. The cuff is inflated to a specific pressure, based on the patient’s arterial flow. Once the flow is restricted, specific personalized strengthening exercises are performed. The key is to use high repetitions but with lower weight as not to stress the injured area. Once the repetitions are complete, the blood flow is released back to normal levels.
Who can benefit from BFR?
With the right expert, BFR can be an excellent option for anyone who is currently undergoing post-operative rehab as it helps to increase muscle strength and bone healing and can also reduce the formation of scar tissue. So whether you’ve strained your rotator cuff or just had ACL surgery, BFR can help you gain more strength without putting too much stress on the healing muscles or joints. BFR has also been used for chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Competitive athletes can also use BFR to optimize their training and recovery. If you’ve maxed out with heavy weights or need a training option to use on your recovery days, BFR can be used to give you an edge to further your gains for your sport.