Written By: Tyler Laib, PT, DPT, Clinical Director, SportsCare Randolph & Kellie Carpenter, PT, DPT, SportsCare Bergenfield
Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFRT) is an exciting technique that can augment your physical therapy experience at SportsCare.
BFRT is a brief and intermittent occlusion or restriction of arterial and venous blood flow which is done by applying a tourniquet to the upper or lower extremity. BFRT has been found to augment skeletal muscle adaptation, along with system whole-body changes and cardiovascular benefits while at rest with low-intensity endurance exercises or low-load resistance training.
This intervention uses specifically designed and precisely calibrated inflatable bands to provide occlusion pressure to a limb. The straps slow blood flow from reaching the muscle groups you and your physical therapist want to target and strengthen. The reduced blood flow creates an environment in your muscle making it work with decreased access to oxygen.
But “Don’t muscles need oxygen to work?”
While it is true that muscles need oxygen to work, BFRT elicits a physiological response within the muscle creating an opportunity to gain strength with lighter loads, increase the efficiency of muscle contractions, limit disuse atrophy, and create hypertrophy. All beneficial outcomes when recovering from injury or rehabilitating after surgery.
Research has suggested that low-load resistance exercise (20-30% 1RM) and low-load aerobic exercise combined with BFRT produced exaggerated responses for maximizing muscle strength and hypertrophy.
Patients suffering from knee arthritis could benefit from this technique. Those recovering from ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) reconstruction or knee arthroscopy should also explore this approach with their SportsCare therapist.
BFRT can also be used on:
- Athletes or patients who want to get back to higher-level activities.
- Post-surgical patients for example: ACL, meniscus, TKR.
- Patients with weakness of the lower or upper extremity with full ROM that can’t tolerate high loads.
- Patients with atrophy from surgery or lack of use.
A rehabilitation program after a surgical or non-surgical upper extremity or lower extremity fracture could potentially incorporate BFRT. While the use of Blood Flow Restricted Therapy can be used in many situations for a variety of patients, it needs to be utilized safely and appropriately.