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Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Therapy, The Newest in Rehab & Prehab
What is Blood Flow Restriction [BFR] Therapy?
While it may sound counterintuitive – when appropriate, restricting blood flow has considerable benefits in athletic training and recovery.
The treatment is done during exercise by using pressure cuffs (similar to those used to measure blood pressure) to restrict circulation to the affected area(s). The restriction causes a “local hypoxic event” resulting in the temporary loss of oxygen to the tissue/muscle, this is called partial occlusion. Occlusion leads to an accumulation of metabolites in the affected area which causes more muscle protein synthesis/building and tissue recovery.
How does BFR Work?
- A pressure cuff is placed on the proximal end of the limb/body part you are looking to isolate
- The pressure cuff fills with air and partially constricts blood flow in the affected area
- The restricted blood flow, occlusion, results in a cell swelling effect on the muscle
- This swelling fatigues the muscle quicker and causes increased muscle fiber recruitment
- AKA: while performing the exercise the restriction of blood flow tires out the affected area so that the body’s natural healing and the tissue-building process can occur
- Increased metabolites + increased fatigue due to lack of oxygen = muscle fatigue and increased recruitment of type 2 muscle fibers (fast-twitch muscles). This helps build muscle without as much breakdown, resulting in faster recovery.
The benefits of using BFR Therapy
The benefit of using BFR therapy is that it allows muscle growth with less weight, fewer repetitions and less stress on the soft tissue and muscle during your rehab or strengthening process. BFR allows muscles that are involved in recovery to avoid atrophying, keeping them active and engaged for a more successful rehab process.
If a person can not complete their sport or activity due to weight-bearing restrictions or surgery, using BFR can help with the maintenance of muscle mass and speed up recovery with the excess blood flow to the limb after cuffs are removed. This way when the person is ready to start returning to activity, muscle strength is still present and won’t further delay the recovery process.
Who should use BFR Therapy?
BFR Therapy can be used for most upper or lower extremity injuries and has shown great results in those that are post-surgery. Additional rehab populations include those with tendon repairs, pre or post-operation that have immobilization, those looking to gain strength and stability in their movement, and more!