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Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFRT)

What is BFRT?

By definition, blood flow restriction training is the brief and intermittent occlusion of arterial and venous blood flow using a tourniquet on an individual's arm or leg while at rest or exercising.

How does BFRT work and what are the benefits?

By decreasing the blood flow (and therefore oxygen) to a muscle while performing low intensity exercise, we're creating an anaerobic environment which through a complex series of events increases the recruitment of Type 2 (fast-twitch) muscle fibers and significantly increases growth hormone leading to muscle hypertrophy.

When we are injured, in pain, or immobilized we’re typically unable to exercise at an intensity which typically results in muscle growth. Think of the saying "if you don't use it, you lose it".

Research shows that there is significant atrophy of type 2 muscle fibers after just 10 days of detraining.

The great thing about blood flow restriction training is we are able to use the cuff and exercise at a low, more tolerable intensity while enabling our muscles to adapt as if we are working at a higher load (but with less pain, less muscle damage, etc).

Goal in rehab setting: 

  • Improve muscle strength, reduce muscle damage, and promote growth to muscles both below and above the cuff.
  • Promote bone healing and improve bone density through demands on the muscle.

Who benefits from BFRT?

BFRT can be used for a wide range of individuals. There is evidence that this intervention can be effective for those who are bedridden, casted, braced, pre or post-operative status, the elderly, and the athletic population.

There are a lot of different protocols that can be used based on the goals of the patient/clinician, so it's really an intervention that can benefit almost anyone.

Is BFRT Safe?

Blood flow restriction training is 100% safe.

However, since we are manipulating an individual's blood flow to their extremity for a brief period of time, we have a detailed screening process to make sure the patient is appropriate for this intervention.

Several of our therapists use BFRT including:

Downtown:
Krysten Malcolm, PT, DPT

Albemarle Square:
Nathan Gillispie, PT, DPT
Carter White, PT, DPT, OCS, COMT

Pantops:
Sarah Gillispie, PT, DPT
Rebecca Schock, PT

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