Blood Flow Restriction
Learn about Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Therapy and how BFR can benefit your physical therapy treatment.
What is Blood Flow Restriction (BFR)?
Blood flow restriction (BFR) is a technique that involves partially obstructing blood flow to a limb or muscle group during exercise. Blood flow restriction therapy typically uses specialized elastic bands or cuffs to apply pressure to the limb. The bands or cuffs are placed around the proximal part of the limb (e.g., the upper arm or thigh) and inflated to a pressure that partially impedes blood flow.
When blood flow is restricted during exercise, the muscles in training experience an accumulation of metabolic byproducts. Accumulating these byproducts can stimulate muscle growth and improve muscle function.
BFR is often used in physical therapy to enhance muscle strength, size, and activation. Physical therapists can also combine BFR with low-load exercises to produce muscle adaptations similar to those achieved with high-load activities. However, this combination puts less strain on the joints and connective tissue. This makes BFR an attractive option for individuals who are unable to perform high-weight exercises due to injury, pain, or other limitations.
Benefits of BFR in Physical Therapy
Some benefits of using BFR during physical therapy include the following:
Increased muscle size and strength when combined with low-load exercises
Enhanced muscle activation during exercise
Improved muscle endurance by increasing the muscles' ability to tolerate fatigue
The potential for faster rehabilitation and recovery
Blood flow restriction therapy allows those recovering from surgery or injury to perform strength training exercises at lower weights, which may be less stressful on the joints and connective tissue. This technique can lead to faster rehabilitation and recovery.
Is blood flow restriction safe?
Blood flow restriction is generally safe when performed by trained professionals. However, there are a few possible side effects to consider. These include:
Skin irritation or bruising from the bands or cuffs
Numbness or tingling in the limb due to temporary nerve compression
Lightheadedness or dizziness due to temporary changes in blood pressure
BFR should also be avoided in individuals with certain medical conditions, such as peripheral artery disease or deep vein thrombosis, as it may increase the risk of blood clots or other complications. Physical therapists need proper training to use BFR and to follow best practices to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the technique. At Flow Physical Therapy, our physical therapists are certified to use blood flow restriction therapy.
Who is a good candidate for blood flow restriction during physical therapy?
At Flow Physical Therapy, we carefully evaluate each person to determine if BFR is appropriate for their needs. Several groups of individuals may be good candidates for blood flow restriction (BFR) during physical therapy, including:
Those recovering from injuries or conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, such as sprains, strains, fractures, or surgery. BFR can enhance muscle strength, size, and activation, which may help to improve functional mobility and reduce the risk of future injuries.
Adults, who may have difficulty performing high-load exercises due to decreased muscle strength and bone density. BFR allows patients to achieve the same muscle adaptations with lower loads, which may be less stressful on the joints and connective tissue.
Individuals with chronic conditions that limit their ability to perform high-load exercises, such as arthritis or obesity. BFR allows for muscle adaptations with lower weights, which may be easier for these individuals to tolerate.