Blood Flow Restriction Therapy, or BFR, was developed in the 1960s in Japan. It has become more popular over the last few years, and there have been positive outcomes for those undergoing clinical rehab. Scientists have published numerous studies on the efficacy of BFR for treating a variety of conditions and it is now generally recognized as a safe therapy with many benefits.
Initially called Kaatsu training in Japan, BFR uses air tubes or pneumatic wraps which allow blood arteries to carry blood to an area but cuts of the ability for blood to return through the veins. This is significantly different from occlusion therapy which cuts off all blood flow to an area completely. This can be damaging and can also cause deep vein thrombosis or rhabdomyolysis, two very serious conditions which can be deadly.
When the blood is not allowed to return to the heart through the veins, lactate which is a metabolic result begins to accrue. If minimal exercise is performed, the muscles in the area that are restricted do not know that. They think you are working at maximum effort. The process is complicated, and if you remember Freshman Biology class, it involves ATP, homeostasis, and anaerobic activity.
Research shows that a person can see the same benefits lifting 20-30 pounds as they would if they were lifting 70 pounds. This is crucial for people who have injuries and are undergoing rehabilitation. If the same effects can be achieved faster and with less effort on the patient, the injury will heal faster. Plus, the strain on surgery sites and stitches is lower. Patients can use BFR with resistance training and also with other modalities such as walking.
Another effect of blood flow restricted training is that it allows for a greater combination of proteins needed to build and mend muscles and other tissues. Sometimes bodybuilders and strength athletes use BFR with wraps to simulate the same effect. Therapists certainly don’t recommend these techniques as you could damage tissues. The equipment physical therapists use is specifically designed to deliver the correct amount of blood restriction without doing damage.
Therapists use equipment that is FDA-approved. This tourniquet is affixed to the arm or thigh and sets your Limb Occlusion Pressure or LOP. The equipment monitors your blood pressure and adjusts when necessary to keep the pressure at the correct level at all times.
When BFR is done in a reputable physical therapist’s office, it is safe when protocols are followed. You should ensure you are working with an approved therapist such as those at Miami Beach Physical Therapy. These trained therapists know exactly how much restriction to apply and how long you should train.
When the goal is for a quick recovery, BFR offers a reputable option for healing an injury and getting back to normal. BFR is also used in long-term rehabilitation centers which allow patients to return home earlier than they would otherwise. Considering the significant costs associated with long-term care, BFR could greatly reduce overall medical costs as well.
BFR is also used by professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL for stimulation of growth hormones to aid in recovery and muscle growth.