What Is Blood Flow Restriction Training?
It’s not as scary as it sounds! Blood Flow Restriction Training (BFRT) is a specialty treatment program offered at our Forest Acres office in Columbia. The main goal is to reduce stress on limbs and improve strength.
Let’s begin with the discovery of BFRT:
The discovery of this technique occurred quite literally by accident. A young Japanese man, Dr. Yoshiaki Sato, found that his legs would go numb after many hours of kneeling in a traditional position while attending a Buddhist ceremony. After massaging his claves to gain relief, he realized that his blood was occluded because he was seated directly on his feet. It was in that moment that Dr. Soto first conceived the original idea of training with blood flow restriction in moderation. He developed the original protocols of “Kaatsu” and is practiced in Japan today. After many years of experimenting with bicycle tubes, bands, and ropes on different parts of his body, Dr. Soto’s breakthrough came after sustaining an ankle and knee injury that left him incapacitated. Doctors told him that it would take 6 months to heal. With his knowledge of the use of Kaatsu bands, Dr. Sato was able to do isometric exercises with the bands on his upper leg for 30 seconds up to 3 times daily while wearing a plaster cast. The results were astounding. Dr. Soto had a full recovery within 6 weeks with no muscle atrophy.
How do physical therapists apply Blood Flow Restriction Training in today’s clinical setting?
Here is what we need to know about BFRT as it relates to today’s clinical application and usage. BFRT is based on partial arterial and complete venous occlusion with a pneumatic cuff applied to the muscle that is being trained. Resistance exercises are performed at low intensity (20%-30%) of a 1 repetition maximum. The repetitions are high at 15-30 per set and the time to rest is relatively short at 30 seconds between sets. These factors mimic high intensity training by causing the same type of hormone release, hypoxia, and cell swelling within the muscle at a lower intensity level. The end result is increased muscle hypertrophy without the heavy workload that is traditionally associated with muscle growth.
How can BFRT benefit you?
There are major benefits for patient populations that are in danger of deconditioning and are unable to perform the heavy resistive exercise necessary to maintain muscle mass. With BFRT, a bed restricted cancer patient or a post-op total knee patient can perform low intensity muscle setting exercises and experience hypertrophy without having to do large movements or leave the bed. This will help in eliminating the secondary complications that occur with muscle atrophy and aide in a faster recovery. Patients regain independence quicker and a return to an active lifestyle.