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Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Therapy

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Blood Flow Restriction Therapy

We have shifted gears this month – moving away from a particular condition to one focused on a popular and personalized therapy Davis PTSR uses to improve rehabilitative exercises for patients who have limitations due to injury, pain, and recovery deconditioning.

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Is the brief intermittent occlusion of venous (veins) blood flow using a tourniquet while exercising. Using this technique, patients can exercise with significantly lighter weight while still creating hypertrophy (growth) and strength response. Traditionally realizing such a response in muscles requires the need to lift a heavy load.

With BFR, the goal is to reduce just enough blood flow to create positive changes. However, the amount of pressure used varies between individuals.

Factors in Determining Personalized Pressure:

  • Limb size

  • Soft tissue density in the limb

  • Blood pressure

  • Tourniquet cuff placement

  • Tourniquet cuff width

It is important that all of these factors be considered when determining a patient’s personalized pressure, and Davis PTSR utilizes a specialized tourniquet system with built-in monitors to account for these variables. Additionally, we will discuss potential contraindications to this treatment, which include a history of blood clots, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension, before determining if BFR is the right method of treatment.

Once personalized pressures are determined, patients will begin specific exercises based on their specific rehabilitation plan. With BFR, the muscle will begin to feel like it is working very hard, even when lifting a lightweight. This feeling is the buildup of lactic acid and the desired response of this training. It is important to complete the total number of sets and repetitions prescribed to maximize this response. Patients may also begin to sweat and feel a rise in heart rate rise, similar to a heavy workout. This is common and expected.

After completing the exercise session and having built up sufficient lactate, many positive effects can occur, including an increase in growth hormone and other anabolic muscle growth factors. Also, there will be a rise in muscle protein synthesis, which help the muscles’ ability to grow. Some patients experience an analgesic (pain reduction) effect for up to 24 hours. Discussing proper nutrition guidelines to maximize the use of fats is important.

Adverse side effects are rare. The most common effects after this training are residual swelling in the limb, a fatigued muscle, and possibly some mild soreness. These are transient and usually resolve within 24 hours. If there is prolonged swelling, fatigue, or soreness, patients should discuss it with a healthcare provider along with any other concerns.

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