What is Blood Flow Restriction Therapy? (BFR)

Blood Flow Restriction Therapy is typically utilized by our athletic population to speed up recovery times and even increase their strength and endurance. Using a cuff, band or strap of some sort you restrict blood flow to a certain muscle or group of muscles.

The idea is to make the tissue work harder than it normally would during high volume, low weight exercises such as a bicep curl. If practiced safely and intelligently, the outcome tends to be faster and more significant muscle gains and more strength and endurance.

BFR Therapy has also been used in physical therapy and other rehabilitation scenarios to help people recover from injuries or surgeries. This is because BFR Therapy can allow an individual to perform exercises with less weight, resistance and impact and still achieve proper muscle activation and fatigue.

Let’s outline some benefits of BFR:

  1. Increased Muscle Activation: By partially restricting blood flow to a muscle that muscle will have more of a pump. This means that tissue is fully activating. This can be done with less demanding exercises which benefits folks recovering from injury.
  2. Cardiovascular Health: BFR can lead to increased cardiovascular health and improve blood flow to specific areas.
  3. Reduced Joint Stress: By using lower weight or lower levels of resistance during training. You can achieve similar results for muscle growth and performance with BFR. Also, if someone is recovering from an injury, lower impact training allows them to keep growing and training without exacerbating the issue.
  4. Improved Recovery: Restricting and then increasing blood flow promotes tissue recovery. Whether for injury or performance. This is the same idea between alternating ice and heat. Ice restricts blood flow to the area and heat increases circulation to the area. Albeit this technique is more aggressive and accomplishes faster results than ice and heat alone. Increased and targeted blood flow floods the affected area with nutrients and allows things like pulls, strains and tears to heal faster.

Cautionary Information:

  1. Blood clots: Partially restricting blood flow to the limbs during BFR training can increase the risk of blood clots. This risk can be minimized by using proper cuff placement and pressure, and by avoiding BFR in individuals with a history of blood clots or other circulatory disorders.
  2. Nerve damage: Improper cuff placement or pressure during BFR training can lead to nerve damage, which can cause numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the affected limb.
  3. Muscle damage: BFR training can be intense, and improper technique or use of too much resistance can lead to muscle damage or injury. It’s important to start with low levels of resistance and gradually increase the intensity over time.
  4.  BEFORE ATTEMPTING BFR: Always practice new techniques under the instruction of a trained profession and get cleared with your physician before trying BFR Therapy.

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