Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Therapy
Build muscle and strength with light weights – read on to find out how…
If you have a condition that means you can’t lift heavy weights but you need to maintain or build muscle mass, what would you do?
If you have recently had a leg or ankle fracture or knee surgery – maybe a total knee replacement, an arthroscopy or ACL reconstruction – and can’t load your recovering tissues, you would expect to lose muscle and have to look forward to a long period of re-building that lost muscle, right?
What if you knew that you could use as little as 20-30% of what you would consider to be heavy, and still build muscle, as well as improve your aerobic performance, reduce your pain and possibly even accelerate your healing, including bone healing???
Let us introduce you to Blood Flow Restriction Training – a complete game-changer in the world of physical conditioning and rehabilitation. As the first Physiotherapy practice on the Central Coast of NSW to seek out training and TGA-approved equipment, 6S PHYSIO are leaders in this exciting new form of rehabilitation and athletic performance boosting training.d athletic performance boosting training.
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What is BFR Training?
Early research into this form of therapeutic and athletic physical conditioning began in the 1960s but in recent years has benefited from conclusive research that is based on the reduction of venous outflow of blood from a limb (or two limbs) in order to produce fatigue in muscles at light loads, thus provoking a growth response without the usual loading on joints that heavy weight training imposes.
A cuff similar to a blood pressure cuff is applied at the top of the arm or thigh in order to partly block the blood flow out of the limb. Some arterial blood can still get in but venous blood is prevented from getting out.
Technically speaking, it has been demonstrated that BFR training increases the endocrine response and release of hormones such as Growth Hormone (GH) and IGF-1, needed for protein synthesis, by 200-300%. This heightens the cell signalling for hypertrophy and strength gains. GH also supports the building of non-contractile tissues which is needed after surgery or a severe injury. Some other key benefits of BFR training include; a decrease in pain perception up to 24 hours after use, aid in tissue repair, activation of new blood vessel growth, and increased recruitment of anaerobic muscle fibers. BFR is a safe alternative to traditional resistance training by allowing reduced exercise intensity while still achieving similar physiological results.
BFR plays a significant role in achieving the functional gains in the aging or injured population but is equally applicable to the healthy population as it provides muscle mass and strength gains without the toll that heavy training incurs. This means a ‘light day’ doesn’t mean compromising on hypertrophy and allows faster recover than traditional heavy training.
Is BFR safe?
It has now been demonstrated that when specific measurements are made by trained therapists BFR is very safe for the majority of patients and athletes. There are some exceptions – particularly those with specific vascular conditions like varicose veins that won’t tolerate increased pressures – however, once professional screening is conducted BFR can be applied effectively in populations including the elderly, the injured and athletic populations.
The notion of stopping some blood flow needn’t be seen as dangerous in and of itself. The duration of the occlusion is at lower pressures and of shorter durations than orthopaedic surgeries where complete tourniquets are applied for hours at a time, with no ill effect.
On the other hand, when BFR is simply guessed at or applied using non-approved devices there is a risk of bruising or nerve damage. It is essential to get the advice of a trained therapist and experience BFR using approved equipment.
Why Choose 6S PHYSIO for BFR Training input?
6S PHYSIO was the first allied health practice on the Central Coast to make BFR treatments available, making us the leaders in the technique and the most experienced at delivering it.
The equipment used by 6S PHYSIO – SmartTools cuffs – is one of only two types of pneumatic cuffs available that are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Only cuffs that achieve full limb occlusion are capable of accurately determining the correct pressures for safe and effective application of Blood Flow Restriction.
Conditions that are successfully treated with BFR Therapy
BFR therapy can be used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions including:
• Post-surgery – knee arthroscopy, shoulder reconstructions, joint reconstructions (including ACL reconstruction), joint replacements
• During (yes, during) and after immobilization associated with fractures
• In conditions such as knee osteoarthritis, osteoporosis
• Patellofemoral pain syndrome
What should I expect when I am undertaking BFR Therapy?
Your initial session of BFR treatment will involve an assessment for your suitability, measurement of your individual Limb Occlusion Pressure for each limb and prescription of an individualized pressure. You will then experience what it is likely to have the BFR applied. For some this will be limited to application only, with no exercise added. For others, the cuffs are applied during very light activity – possibly as simple of simple walking or light cycling. Others will perform resistance exercise but at a much lower load than they might use if uninjured or fully conditioned.
Generally we introduce BFR gradually, so that the tissues get used to the effect of partial occlusion. Rushing the process can leave you sore.
Is BFR Therapy Painful?
When BFR is applied at the correct pressures it does feel like a significant pressure, but it is not painful or sufficient to cause negative changes in sensation or numbness – your therapist will monitor this with you.
Most people will comment “ooh, that is quite tight, isn’t it?”, and after the cuff is removed there is a little bit of relief as the muscles regain normal blood flow, however the sensation after the treatment is a sense of a lingering ‘pump’ in the muscles. This pumped sensation is much sought after in the athletic population as it tends to be associated with positive changes in the muscles, so you will likely feel good after a BFR workout!
Is BFR Therapy covered by Insurance?
BFR therapy is covered by health funds because our expert physiotherapists and exercise physiologists provide it as part of normal therapy.
For more information please read our blog posts on BFR therapy.
You can also Contact us for more information about this service or to book your BFR therapy session today!