What is Blood Flow Restriction?
Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) is the way of the future for physical therapy and strength training. With BFR we create the same hormonal effect traditional strength training stimulates with significantly less strain on muscle, joints, and connective tissue.
How does Blood Flow Restriction Therapy Help Rehab?
Due to inflammatory responses, pain, and connective tissue repairs, those recovering from injury may not be candidates to lift heavy enough weights to gain strength. To reach the traditional requirements for strength and hypertrophy an individual needs to lift loads greater than 65% of his/her 1 repetition max (RM). Using occlusion therapy which decreases vascular inflow and occludes venous outflow individuals can exercise at light loads (20-30% 1RM) and develop the same gains as traditional strength training.
The Science behind Blood Flow Restriction
- Hypertrophic effects seen after a 6-week traditional strength program were the same after a 6-week low load BFR program
- Strength and hypertrophy gains with BFR training at 20-30% 1RM are the same as traditional 80% 1RM training.
- Increase in metabolites such as growth hormone, insulin like growth factor, and myogenic stem cells post BFR training/li>
- Increase in activation of the MTORC1 protein synthesis pathway post Blood Flow Restriction Training
- Patient had 50% less atrophy post surgically following 2-weeks of BFR treatment
- Decrease in long term muscle loss following BFR training
FAQ's of Blood Flow Restriction
During reps of a weight training session in traditional (non-BFR) strength training the muscles contract and compress on surrounding vasculature. When weights lifted are heavy enough to be considered 65% or more of an individual’s 1 RM it sparks your body’s natural hypertrophy chain reaction by occluding the surrounding vasculature with a strong muscle contraction. This stimulates a ‘metabolic crisis’ leading the body to release different hormones to induce hypertrophic changes. With blood flow restriction, we cultivate this response by occluding the blood flow with a tourniquet while lifting light weights. The same increase in hormonal changes occur with occlusion training at 20-30% 1 RM as compared to 65-80% 1RM with significantly less load on the connective tissue, injury, or repair site. This allows the individual to maintain and gain strength during the early injury phase without stressing the surrounding tissue.
Anyone who would like to put less stress on their joints and connective tissues and still improve strength and muscle recruitment. Athletes, physical therapy patients, post-surgical patients, pre-surgical patients, those who are looking to maintain strength while on bed rest or casted, and more.
It is extremely important to use an FDA Class one tourniquet with individualized pressure. Never use a device that is unable to measure blood pressure. In the clinic, we use one of two types of BFR cuffs that are FDA approved, ‘Smart Cuffs’. Every patient’s blood pressure is measured via Doppler, and occlusion rate protocol is calculated based on individual blood pressure.
No. Research has shown occlusion therapy does not increase the risk of clots. Quite the contrary, after occlusion training research has shown the body will release a hormone decreasing clot risks.
No. Most patients report feeling a slight ‘muscle burn’ as if they had just climbed a flight of stairs. Patients also experience the circumferential pressure of the cuff while exercising. The wider the cuff, the more dispersed the pressure is. In the clinic, we use one of the most comfortable widths of cuffs. Patients should ever experience numbness or tingling in the limb while performing BFR training.
Symmetry Physical Therapy is a privately owned one-on-one patient centered physical therapy clinic in Downtown Miami/Brickell. Every treatment is with the same Doctor of Physical Therapy for the entire hour. Symmetry’s specialized, dedicated, and passionate team of professionals are fully committed to each patient’s success.
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