ACL repair? Rotator cuff injury? Mobility issues due to age?
Improving strength in injured limbs or weak limbs without compromising vulnerable joints or other soft tissue, can be a painful challenge.
Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFR) is a cutting edge technique used in physical therapy that allows greater strength gains, while lifting lighter loads thereby reducing the overall stress placed on the limb.
Traditionally, strength gains occur during heavy load application to the limb. Ironically, after trauma or surgery, heavy loads are not safe or comfortable during the rehab process. At Fremont Therapy Group, BFR is proving to be a game changer in the area of strengthening injured limbs.
One area Tom has been able to implement with his OCS certification expertise is Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFR). The science behind BFR is low load training, with heavy load benefits.
What does it look like?
With BFR, a wide, FDA approved, blood pressure-type cuff is placed on upper or lower limb to retain blood in the injured limb or muscles associated with that injured area. The physical therapist then inflates the cuff to a customized pressure for the patient and injury type. The patient is guided through a physical therapy session with the cuff in place.
How does BFR work?
The cuff limits blood flow to the weak limb and creates a safe deficiency of oxygen, which “tricks” the fast twitch muscles to work hard and build muscle fibers, while lifting very little weight.
Lower weight = same benefit of higher weight, without the load risk for the injured limb.
Can BFR be used with patients who are immobilized with a cast?
Yes, for example, with a wrist fracture patient a BFR cuff was placed on the upper arm and this allowed us to safely work on grip strength throughout the course of recovery.
Once the cast was removed, we noted very little muscle atrophy, in addition, BFR can safely provide the stress stimulation needed to encourage bone growth–this results in a faster, more effective recovery for weakened or fractured bones.
What patients have to say:
Do you really feel like you get a workout lifting so little weight?
Absolutely! I had ACL repair 2 years ago. Tom helped me successfully recover with traditional PT techniques. I returned to PT with patellar tendonitis in the same knee one year later. I needed to strengthen my quad, but it was painful to lift weight with my inflamed knee. Tom used BFR and I was amazed at the intensity of leg workout I could get with very little weight. We measured my quad circumference at week one and re-measured at week six. I made huge muscle gains, in fact my injured leg now measures larger than my non-injured leg. I am blown away by my strength results with BFR without placing stress on my injured patellar tendon!
Does the cuff hurt?
No, not at all. Blood flow is not completely cut off to the limb. It truly feels just like a low level blood pressure cuff.
(Jules Feck, a Lander patient with ACL repair and patellar tendonosis recovery)
How does it feel to exercise with the cuff on?
It makes me feel like I am getting a massive workout to my quad, while only lifting a 3 pound ankle weight. I work up a sweat while still protecting my post-op knee.
(Green River patient Paxton Webb is 6 weeks out from ACL repair. His therapists have been using BFR since week 3 of treatment and note that, compared to previous knee patients, Paxton’s leg strength has increased more quickly with BFR therapy.)