By Carol Kelderman, PT, DPT
There never seems to be a surplus of time on any of our schedules and when you are injured or in pain, it is only natural to look for ways to get better faster. Whether you are an athlete that is eager to get back in the game or someone who wants to be able to get back to an active lifestyle, blood flow restriction training may provide a little extra edge in your recovery.
What is Blood Flow Restriction Training?
The term blood flow restriction training, or BFRT, can be confusing or even sound a little scary, so what exactly is this up-and-coming technique? Blood flow restriction training is a technique that can be used to increase strength gains during exercise by temporarily reducing blood flow to the limb. This provides the benefits of high intensity training while exercising at a lower intensity.
This can be of significant benefit when someone has pain, a period of immobilization, an injury or has had a surgery that results in the need to decrease workload. While the reduced stress on an area of the body may be necessary to allow for early healing or reduce pain, it often has the undesired impact of muscle atrophy that can lead to a prolonged recovery. BFRT stimulates multiple pathways to increase muscle.
How does it work?
It sounds magical but there is actually a lot of science behind the benefits. Our bodies respond to the stress that we place on them. High loads are typically necessary to stimulate the release of metabolites or chemicals that lead to strength gains. Unfortunately, those loads can also increase pain or be too much for healing tissues. Blood flow restriction can produce accumulation of the chemicals in the muscle similar to that experienced when lifting heavy. We observe a “muscle pump” effect that brings all these muscle building ingredients to the area. This muscle environment leads to greater fatigue and increased muscle activation, signaling the body to build muscle.
Support for Blood Flow Restriction Training
Blood flow restriction training has received a lot of attention more recently as the media and many professional athletes have touted the benefits of BFR. While the popularity of this technique is on the rise, it isn’t new. BFRT has been used for many years and researched for over 20 years. Some of the early research was born out of the need to find ways of stimulating growth hormone in injured military personnel. It now has a broad and ever-growing body of research to support it’s use as an effective and safe technique. The safety, as with many other techniques, is largely linked to the way it is used.
The therapists at Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy are experts in determining who would benefit most from this technique. They use class one medical devices to provide individualized testing, select the appropriate settings and determine exercise selection.
If you have experienced an injury or surgery, getting stronger is a key factor in the recovery process. Contact one of our movement experts at Kinetic Edge Physical Therapy for more information. Give us a call at 866-588-0230 or request an appointment online.