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This therapy increased strength and muscle size without the stress of loading heavy weight on the body. It has become popular because it helps both rehabilitating individuals with injuries as well as helping healthy athletes gain and maintain muscle strength. BFR is an adjunct to exercise therapy that helps muscle get stronger without using heavyweights or high intensity exercises. This is beneficial to a patient rehabbing after injury or procedure because patients often experience muscle stiffness or atrophy due to low activity level.
If you’re a healthy individual, BFR can help you build and maintain muscle without the risk of injury or soreness that comes with high intensity lifting.
IS BFR SAFE?
In general, blood flow restriction training is a safe or safer than high-intensity exercise. Your body reacts to BFR similarly to how it would in high intensity training. You should not use BFR if you have severe, untreated hypertension, a blood clotting disorder, sickle cells anemia or lymphedema. Do not use BFR over an acute fracture or over an open soft tissue injury. Check with your Physical Therapist for a list of other precautions before using BFR. BFR training should only be performed under the direct supervision of a treating physical therapist
How does BFR Work?
BFR works by partially restricting the blood flow to an extremity. This process uses a band or cuff that is placed on an arm or leg then connected to a BFR unit. The band or cuff is tightened to restrict blood flow. The patient then performs low intensity exercises with a small weight or resistance band. Exercising while using BFR basically leads to an increase in growth hormone in that muscle allowing the muscle to synthesize protein and get stronger.
Who should use BFR therapy?
BFR therapy can be beneficial for both injured or healthy individuals as it helps rebuild muscle mass if you are recovering from injury and leads to increased muscle mass. BFR is great after joint replacements. In seniors, BFR can minimize “normal” age-related muscle wasting, improve bone density with patients with osteopenia and improve walking endurance. BFR can also be applied safely to certain neurological diseases like Parkinson’s.
Physical therapists have an existing firm foundation of anatomy, physiology, therapeutic exercise and the cardiopulmonary system as well as clinical reasoning which are the components of the safe application of blood flow restriction training.