Blood Flow Restriction Therapy Improves Strength without Stressing Joints

Blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy uses external pressure over a body part during exercise. The applied pressure allows the flow of blood through the arteries.  However, it decreases blood flow in the veins past the restricted site. This makes the working muscles tire more easily.  Therefore, the patient is able to make greater strength gains while lifting lighter loads.  This reduces the overall stress placed on the injured joints or tendons.  The result is a stronger muscle without pain.

How Blood Flow Restriction Therapy Improves Strength

Normal strength and muscle size gains happen from lifting weights close to 70-80% of a person’s one-repetition maximal effort (1RM).  Lifting with so much weight is not a good idea for people recovering from an injury or surgery.

BFR therapy allows strength gains with only 20-30% 1RM.  Most importantly, it does so without stressing the injured areas. This is great for patients following an injury or surgery.  Also, a recent study looked at BFR exercise in a patient with Parkinson’s disease and found they were able to improve their walking ability.

Is Blood Flow Restriction Safe?

Medical-grade tourniquets maintain a safe level of pressure for a long time while a patient undergoes surgery.  Similar tourniquets are used with BFR therapy.  A 2016 large systematic review looked at BFR exercise and found little to no research showing a higher risk than typical exercise at higher resistance loads.

However, one should not take a simple rubber band or strap and wrap it around their leg or arm to stop blood flow.  This will increase the risk of bodily harm and serious injury.  Also, people with chronic medical conditions, a compromised cardiovascular system, or other medical problems are not suited for BFR therapy.  Only a trained medical professional can help you decide if BFR is right for you.

How to Get Started with BFR Therapy

Blood flow restriction therapy is a treatment physical therapists utilize to help patients increase strength without loading joints and muscles.  BFR therapy is proven to help people with arthritis, neurological disorders, tendon problems, and those recovering from surgery.

BSR Physical Therapy prescribes BFR exercises as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for patients at our Barnegat clinicCall our office to schedule an appointment.


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