The Benefits of Blood Flow Restriction Therapy
How can we help you?

Published on July 08, 2022

The Benefits of Blood Flow Restriction Therapy

A health article from Frank Aerts, Physical Therapist at Bronson Rehabilitation Services in South Haven.

Your strength is an important factor in your overall health. In particular, hand grip strength and knee extension strength are considered benchmarks of current and future health status. A lack of grip and knee extension strength is associated with health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and back pain. High grip and knee extension strength are associated with improved post-surgical outcomes and is linked to functional and cognitive abilities.

Getting and staying strong takes work. One of the most common ways to build strength is to lift heavier weights for a low amount of repetitions. However, this type of heavy lifting may be difficult and/or unsafe for some people. It is very important when lifting weights that you use good form and to not push yourself beyond your limits, as this can lead to injury. If you are managing medical conditions, recovering from surgery or are dealing with symptoms of chronic pain or severe fatigue, heavy lifting is likely not the right option for you to gain strength.

Here is where Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFRT) may help.

What is Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFRT)?

BFRT was introduced in the 1960s in Japan and was known as KAATSU training. Today, it is performed worldwide in the fitness and sport performance arenas. Due to the observed benefits and increased scientific research, BFRT is now becoming an integral part of physical rehabilitation.

With BFRT, a therapist or trained professional puts cuffs on the patient’s upper and/or lower limbs. This can include areas like the armpit and groin. The cuffs compress the vascular structures of that area, causing a partial restriction of blood flow. This decreased oxygen within the muscle tissue is known as hypoxia. This hypoxic environment, together with low resistance exercises (lifting lighter weights for a higher number of repetitions), mimics the metabolic state and the results of heavy weight lifting. Therefore, you can gain muscular strength by combining BFRT and low intensity exercises.

Who Can Benefit From Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFRT)?

Like any medical treatment, BRFT is not for everyone. A clinical exam should be performed prior to beginning BFRT. A physician referral may be required, and a physical therapist will perform an additional assessment. The pressures applied are specific to each individual patient. At Bronson, our physical therapy team provides every new patient with a personalized strength assessment to test overall strength and determine the best course of treatment.

You may be a good candidate for BFRT if you:

  • Have been told to avoid high intensity training. This is common following surgery or if you have a weight-bearing restriction.
  • Do not tolerate high intensity training well due to pain or swelling, or due to a chronic condition such as fibromyalgia, bone density loss or decreased aerobic capacity.
  • Have not seen results from other high intensity training (i.e. have not gained strength and/or muscle size).

Blood flow restriction training is now performed by BFRT Certified Providers at Bronson South Haven Rehabilitation Specialists. To schedule an appointment and discuss whether or not BFRT may be an option for you, call (269) 639-2929. For more information about our rehab services, visit bronsonhealth.com/services/rehabilitation.

  • Photo of muscular arm flexing.