Speed Up Your Recovery with Blood Flow Restriction Training

When you’re recovering from surgery or a serious injury, there are times when heavy lifting and high-intensity exercises are not allowed so that you don’t hurt yourself again.

One way to simulate the effects of these exercises is by using blood flow restriction therapy.

What is blood flow restriction therapy?

Physical therapist, Brandon Dirk, at Sanford POWER in Bismarck, NDBlood flow restriction therapy (BFR) is a technique in which a tourniquet is used to reduce the arterial flow to an arm or leg during exercise. Depending on where it’s needed, 50 percent to 80 percent of the arterial flow is restricted.

During blood flow restriction therapy, the limb occlusion pressure is found. The LOP is the minimum pressure required to stop the flow of arterial blood into the limb.

Who uses blood flow restriction therapy?

“We use BFR for patients who are in the early rehabilitation stages following fractures, traumas, ACL reconstructions, meniscal repairs and other serious injuries,” said Brandon Dirk, DPT at Sanford POWER-Bismarck. “BFR, combined with low-intensity exercise, has shown the ability to increase strength and muscle size similar to that of high-intensity exercise – and definitely greater than low-intensity exercise alone.”

Other groups who might use BFR are people with osteoarthritis, chronic weakness due to pain, muscle strains and tendinopathies.

What are the benefits of blood flow restriction therapy?

Less muscle soreness occurs with BFR and low intensity exercise compared to high-intensity exercise. BFR training and low-intensity exercise have not been shown to increase muscle damage.

“BFR is safe as long as the patient has been cleared for contraindications by his/her therapist and proper protocol is followed with a medical-grade tourniquet system,” Dirk said. “BFR has been studied and found that with correct implementation, no greater risk than traditional exercise has been found.”

Dirk says when BFR is used correctly, patients do not have an increased risk of blood clots or nerve damage.

There is BFR certification available for physical therapists. With an intimidating name like “blood flow restriction therapy,” it’s important for patients to know they are working with trained professionals. That’s why Dirk is certified in BFR therapy.

Blood flow restriction therapy is a practical option for patients who are in the early stages of rehab. To find the nearest POWER Center near you, visit sanfordpower.com/.