Blood Flow Restriction: Why + How

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Guest Blog, featuring Wes Riggs, PT, DPT      

Owner/Director of Pro Active Physical Therapy Aurora-Southlands 

Blood flow restriction training (BFR) involves using an FDA approved tourniquet to occlude 50-80% of venous blood flow.

Why BFR?

BFR shows amazing potential in the sports medicine world by allowing a patient to improve hypertrophy (muscle growth) and strength without stressing or overloading their joints.BFR has been shown to require a substantiallyadult architecture athlete boardwalk shorter period of physical activity to achieve the same muscle growth results (3-6 weeks vs 8-12 weeks)As a patient, this will allow you to rehabilitate more aggressively and decrease muscle atrophy, even when you have load/weight bearing restrictions secondary to your surgical healing process.

How does it work?

By reducing blood flow, one can create positive effects that will allow for a hypertrophy and strength response to the muscles that you would traditionally need a heavy load to achieve. BFRSportscare(Photocred: Sportscarephysicaltherapy.com)

Studies show that working out at 80% of your one repetition maximum lift allows for hypertrophy, with BFR, working out at just 20% of this 1 rep max allows for the same hypertrophy response

The Science

  • BFR allows for the use of Type 2 fast-twitch muscle fibers faster and more effectively
  • Increase in muscle protein synthesis
  • Increase in lactate to help with motor recruitment
  • Increase in growth hormone (by 1.7x) and other anabolic (positive) muscle growth factors
    • Growth hormone plays a role in collagen synthesis which could help with bone healing and plays a role in joint and tendon health
  • Increased cell swelling, increased satellite cell pool to allow for muscle memory
  • Decreased myostatin which leads to an increased ability for muscle hypertrophy and a decreased chance for fibrosis after injury
  • BFR creates an analgesic affect to reduce pain

Side Effects

  • Fatigued muscle
  • Mild soreness
  • Small chance of residual swelling in limb
  • Studies show no greater risk of blood clot

About the author…

Wes Riggs, PT, DPT
Owner/Director Pro Active Physical Therapy Aurora-Southlands

Wes has been practicing physical therapy for over 13 years after receiving his clinical doctorate from Regis University. He received his undergraduate degree from Ohio Wesleyan University where he also pitched for the varsity baseball team. Wes founded the Aurora-Southlands branch of Pro Active Physical Therapy in 2009.

Wes has advanced certifications in Functional Trigger Point Dry Needling, Blood Flow Restriction Therapy, Active Release Technique and Graston Soft Tissue Mobilization. He has extensive experience treating a wide variety of orthopedic injuries, sports injuries (youth to professional/Olympic) and neuromuscular impairments across age groups and ability levels. Wes’ clinical interests include, injury rehabilitation and prevention in athletes, overuse injuries in youth athletes and treating sub occipital headache pain. Wes also volunteers his time working with the Colorado Avalanche as well as the Grandview High School and Cherokee Trail High School sports teams. Outside of work Wes enjoys spending time with his wife Lyndsie, daughter Harper and all varieties of sports.

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