You may have heard of professional athletes, such as weightlifters, using Blood Flow Restriction Therapy or BFRT to condition their muscles and decrease atrophy. But did you know it can also help patients recover from injuries or recent surgeries?
Keep reading to learn more about how BFRT works, what you can expect and when your physician may recommend it.
What is Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFRT)?
“Blood Flow Restriction Therapy uses a controlled restriction cuff over the arms or legs to temporarily modify the amount of blood flow in and out of that extremity,” explains Kenny Palmer PT, DPT, board-certified clinical specialist in sports physical therapy with AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab.
By changing the working environment of your arm or leg, you can work at a much lower intensity while still getting an adaption response from the body and brain, as if you were working in a high-intensity environment.
“With traditional exercise, 70 to 85% of your one-repetition maximum is recommended for optimal increases in muscle strength and growth. With BFRT, we can achieve similar results at only 20 to 35% effort,” says Palmer.
BFRT can be used with almost anyone but is particularly helpful for those unable to challenge their body with exercise at higher intensities or lift heavier weights. Palmer explains, “this could include those recovering from injury or surgery, or someone with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteopenia or osteoporosis.”
Our rehabilitation specialists may also recommend BFRT for those with:
- ACL reconstruction
- Meniscal surgeries
- Achilles tendon repair
- Quadricep or patellar tendon repair
- Rotator cuff and tendon repair
- Joint replacement surgeries
- Bone-, cartilage- or arthritic-related conditions
- Most with a non-weight bearing injury or load/weight restriction in their recovery
- Most musculoskeletal injuries and surgeries, excluding head or neck injuries
- Most anyone looking to improve muscular strength and endurance
What Should I Expect the First Time I Use BFRT?
Blood Flow Restriction Therapy can sound intimidating, so we want to help you feel informed of what you can expect. Using blood flow restriction feels like performing a strenuous workout, such as a fast run or heavy lift.
To start, a controlled BFRT cuff will be placed at your upper arm or leg and set to a desired amount of pressure. “When set, you may find that your skin turns a bit red or even a little purple, and the exercise you are performing will gradually become much more challenging but don’t worry, this is completely normal,” explains Palmer. “The setup and exercise can always be adjusted to meet your comfort and enhance your performance.”
As with any hard exercise, you may feel a bit sore the next two days, but this means your body is rebuilding and recovering.
Innovating Technology to Keep You Feeling Whole
Under the guidance of a trained professional, BFRT is a very safe and effective tool, especially for those recovering from recent injuries or surgeries.
“At AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab, we’re committed to innovating our treatment options and using the latest technology to help you feel your best and recover strong,” encourages Palmer.