Have You Discovered the Benefits of Blood Flow Restriction?
If you haven’t heard of blood flow restriction yet, you should give it a shot! According to the American Physical Therapy Association,
“Blood-flow restriction training can help patients to make greater strength training gains while lifting lighter loads, thereby reducing the overall stress placed on the limb.
By applying the right amount of external pressure to an extremity, it’s possible to maintain arterial inflow while occluding venous outflow distal to the occlusion site.”
If you’ve been at the gym recently and notice someone weightlifting with bands wrapped around their biceps, they are likely trying out a new training regimen called Blood Flow Restriction Training, or BFR. The strategy behind Blood Flow Restriction Training is to maintain arterial blood flow to a muscle, while preventing the venous return of blood.
This form of training, also known as occlusion training, involves placing a wrap, band, or cuff around the leg or arm while exercising. This training regimen is beneficial because it can produce adaptations in the muscle at much lower loads.
How does blood flow restriction work?
The compression devices used during blood flow restriction treatments are similar to blood pressure cuffs. The pressure created by these compression devices is high enough to occlude blood flow at 50-80% within the affected muscles.
Blood flow restriction is based on a popular theory that the treatments lead to a “local hypoxic event,” meaning the tissues in the affected area will be temporarily deprived of oxygen. While this may sound intimidating, the local hypoxia actually helps in accumulating more metabolites, in order to regulate the body’s anabolic response system (also known as the way in which the body gains muscle protein) during exercise. Essentially, restricting the blood flow in the affected area helps to build more muscle protein.
Additional physiological responses to blood flow restriction include:
- Increased anabolic growth factors.
- Fast twitch fiber recruitment.
- Muscle fiber synthesis.
- Heat shock proteins.
- Nitric oxide synthase.
- Decreased expression of myostatin.
How will blood flow restriction help me?
It is said that BFR offers many of the same results of heavy lifting without the muscle damage. Blood Flow Restriction Training also provides enhanced recovery after training and reduces atrophy during injuries.
BFR can be implemented in conjunction with other forms of exercise, such as walking, running or resistance training. In fact, exercise programs that include both BFR and low-load resistance training appear to have numerous positive effects on the muscle when compared to workouts that utilize resistance training alone.
BFR appears to increase strength, promote hypertrophy (increased muscle size), increase muscle activity, and results in increased post-exercise muscle protein synthesis.
The BFR and resistance training combination has also shown growth hormone elevations that are seen in conventional resistance training. Programs that incorporate resistance training with BFR and low loads (20 – 30% of 1RM) appear to increase strength.
If you are pregnant and/or have cardiac disease, high blood pressure, or varicose veins, you should consult a physician before trying Blood Flow Restriction Training.
What will a blood flow restriction treatment plan look like?
At your initial appointment, one of our physical therapists who specializes in blood flow restriction will conduct a physical evaluation, analysis of medical history, and discussion of symptoms, in order to determine if blood flow restriction will be the best course of treatment for you.
Blood flow restriction has been known to treat almost any upper or lower body injury, and it can also be used as a form of rehabilitation following surgery. The compression device itself measures the amount of pressure that is recommended for the affected area, in order for the patient to successfully execute each targeted exercise and gain the desired effects.
When performing the exercises, the intended goal of blood flow restriction is to tire out the affected area, in order to stimulate the body’s natural healing and tissue-building processes. This helps speed up your recovery time, so you can get back to your sport as quickly as possible.
After treatment, muscle soreness may occur for the next day or two, and “limb fatigue” may occur for 20-30 minutes but should disappear shortly.
Ready to get started with blood flow restriction?
If you are recovering from an injury or surgery, and you are interested in participating in blood flow restriction training treatments, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Our licensed physical therapists are highly trained in performing this treatment and they would love to discuss how it may benefit you personally.
When you come to us, you are not only here to improve your strength and relieve your pain – you are also here for encouragement and support, every step along the way!
Contact Pinnacle Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine today to schedule a consultation and get started on the path toward pain relief, increased strength, and overall functional improvement!