Blood flow restriction physical therapy, or BFR, is a type of rehabilitation therapy sometimes used for outpatients that require muscle strength training, but who are unable to lift heavy weights as they go through the healing process after surgery or an injury. This special type of therapy is approved by the FDA and should only be administered by a professional physical therapist trained in its application.
How Does BFR Therapy Work?
To administer BFR therapy, a physical therapist will place a specially-made device that acts somewhat as a tourniquet, or cuff, around a patient’s injured arm or leg. The cuff is then inflated to a specific pressure as determined by the physical therapist. Blood flow from the heart to the extremity will continue to occur unrestricted, however the cuff reduces returning venous blood flow by 50-80%. This blood flow restriction allows a patient to use very light weights during therapy, yet receive the same benefits as if they were lifting heavy weights.
Benefits of BFR Therapy
By essentially simulating heavy weight lifting, BFR therapy allows patients to safely and significantly increase their muscle strength back to normal levels without risking further injury by introducing actual heavy weights too soon within their recovery period. Patients undergoing BFR physical therapy methods typically report shorter overall recovery periods due to several factors. BFR therapy encourages a faster reduction in pain levels, thus allowing patients to restore the full range of motion and normal movement patterns of their injured extremity in a more timely manner. BFR therapy also improves a patient’s aerobic performance and has been shown to improve the bone healing process for some patients.
Is it Safe?
The devices used in BFR therapy have been approved by the FDA. When properly administered by a qualified physical therapist, these devices carry no more risk than associated with general exercise.
If you would like to know more about BFR (Blood Flow Restriction) rehabilitation therapy and whether it or other rehabilitation therapy might help speed your recovery process after an injury or surgery, please contact us!