- Blood Flow restriction (BFR) training is a leading edge treatment we utilize at Revive to help our patients recover faster. BFR allows us to get a lot of the same benefits of a high-intensity exercise without the high-intensity load. This means we can get an increase in muscle strength and size with only using very light weights/resistance, therefore allowing us to bypass the injured joint while still strengthening the muscles around it.
- How does it do that?
To get these amazing results we place an FDA approved tourniquet with a built-in doppler to occlude a certain percentage of blood flow to the working limb to create a substantial amount of anaerobic exercise. This type of exercise helps build muscle strength, size and even helps stimulate bone healing. Previously we could only obtain this much anaerobic exercise with high-intensity exercise, now we can get a lot of anaerobic exercise without the high intensity. This means we are able to strengthen the muscle in ways we couldn't before due to the limitation of joint pain. This is possible because we have created an environment that is similar to high-intensity exercise but without the high intensity.
You see when our muscles are working really hard such as when lifting heavy weights or sprinting they do not have the time and resources to use the oxygen from our blood because the demand on them is so great and blood flow can't keep up. So instead, our muscles use energy that is not created by oxygen, which is called anaerobic exercise. This type of force production from our muscles starts a cascade of physiological events that promotes muscle strength, growth, and even bone healing. We mimic this environment by NOT increasing the exercise intensity but by decreasing the blood flow to the working limp.
Blood flow restricted (BFR) rehabilitation is the brief and intermittent occlusion of the blood flow in veins using a tourniquet while exercising. Using this technique you can exercise with significantly lighter weight while still creating a hypertrophy (growth) and strength response. Traditionally to get hypertrophy and a strength response in your muscles you would need to lift a heavy load.
The goal is to reduce just enough blood flow to create positive changes. However the amount of pressure used varies between individuals. The size of your limb, density of the soft tissue in your limb, blood pressure, placement of the tourniquet, and width of the tourniquet, all must be taken into account when determining your personalized pressure. Your healthcare provider will utilize a specialized tourniquet system built with a monitor to account for these variables. Additionally, your healthcare provider will discuss potential contraindications to this treatment with you to determine if you are a candidate.
Once your personalized pressure is determined you will begin specific exercises based on your rehabilitation plan. Even though you are lifting a light weight your muscles will begin to feel like it is working very hard. This feeling In your muscle is the buildup of lactate and is the desired response of this training. It is important that you complete the total number of sets and repetitions prescribed by your healthcare provider in order to maximize this response. You may also begin to sweat and feel your heart rate rise similar to what you experience during a heavy workout. This is common and expected.
After you have completed your exercise session and you build up sufficient lactate many positive effects can occur. These include an increase in growth hormone and other metabolic muscle growth factors. There will also be an increase in muscle protein synthesis, your muscles’ ability to grow. You should discuss proper nutrition guidelines with your healthcare provider to maximize these effects
Adverse side effects are rare. The most common effects are residual swelling in the limb, a fatigued muscle and possibly some mild soreness. These are transient and usually resolved\ within 24 hours. If you have prolonged swelling, fatigue or soreness, discuss this with your healthcare provider along with any other concerns you may have.
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