BFRT or blood flow restriction therapy is a type of exercise that involves utilizing a pneumonic cuff (like a doctor’s device for taking blood pressure) that restricts the blood flow through your limbs. An individual named Dr. Yoshiaki Sato first discovered this form of training in the 70s after breaking his leg and having to wear a full cast. He practiced blood flow restriction training 2-3 times a day on his leg above the cast for the six weeks he was in the cast. His muscle mass was still largely intact when the cast was removed.
How does blood flow restriction training work?
The use of a cuff can reduce blood flow out of the limb, while still allowing blood to flow in. Combining this therapy with very light exercise/loading – for example pedaling a bike or lifting a light weight – accumulates metabolites in the limb. Due to the presence of metabolites, BFRT tricks your body into thinking that it is doing more work than it really is – and therefore stimulates the muscle building process.
The benefits of BFRT are achieved by:
- Muscle growth is accelerated by increased growth hormone and lactate production
- Increased activation of Type II (also known as fast-twitch) muscle fibres, resulting in increased muscle growth.
- The muscles are able to receive more oxygen because of increased vascularisation of the tissues (i.e. more blood vessels).
- Increasing heart rate contributes to cardiovascular and strength training effects
What are the benefits of blood flow restriction training?
In our clinic, we use BFR on three main populations:
Patients following knee replacements, Achilles repairs, ACL reconstruction, and many other operations. The muscles surrounding the area must quickly become strong and work, but this is hard to do without putting too much force through them.
Through BFRT, we can protect the vulnerable areas and train the surrounding muscles at the same time.
BFRT is a great tool for athletes who are injured and want to reduce time away from their sport. Even when an athlete is injured, we can use BFR to get high training effects at low loads. Our aim is to prevent the injury from getting worse, but at the same time keep it strong.
Older deconditioned people
In addition to strengthening arthritic hips and knees, blood flow restriction training helps to keep joints from getting painful. Patients with leg weakness and difficulty standing from a chair, or perhaps a fall risk, might also benefit from BFRT.
BFRT works well for both of these groups of people, even if they suffer from arthritis or degenerative joint conditions.
Is BFR Safe?
In certain cases, BFRT is actually very safe and proven effective to reduce pain/inflammation, and boost recovery.
The BFRT is not suitable for everyone. These are some of the most common reasons why some people may not be able to use blood flow restriction therapy.
- History of a cardiac event or any vascular health issues
- Active infection
- Severe varicose veins
You will be asked numerous questions about your health before any BFRT session to determine if it is right for you.