Blood Flow Restriction Therapy

blood flow restriction treatment icon


Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFRT) is a technique that combines low-intensity exercise with blood flow occlusion that produces similar results to high-intensity training.

blood flow restriction equipment

What is Blood Flow Restriction Therapy?

Blood Flow Restriction Therapy (BFRT) originated in Japan in the 1960s under the name of KAATSU training and was conceived and developed by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato. When blood flow into a muscle is restricted by 80% and outgoing blood flow from a muscle is completely restricted by 100%, the muscle is able to build strength and size with very low levels of resistance. This is achieved by placing a medical-grade tourniquet around the affected limb closer to the heart than the injury site and restricting blood down to the injury site.

How Can Blood Flow Restriction Therapy Help?

Physiotherapy conditions often seen in patients involve a loss of muscle power, size, and or muscle atrophy. These complications contribute to pain and disability by several mechanisms including increasing the relative workload of tissues leading to mechanical overload, creating joint instability, and the loss of muscle power leading to function weakness and a loss of mobility. Patients who cannot tolerate the kind of stress and resistance needed to make positive adaptations in muscles can utilise BFRT that will translate to less pain during exercise and less pain due to loss of muscle power and size.

woman training with gymnastic tourniquet
blood flow restriction therapy demonstration

How Does It Work?

The key to understanding how BFRT works is understanding the difference between mechanical and metabolic stress. Under normal circumstances muscle growth and adaptation occur primarily due to mechanical stress, meaning the muscle moves a fixed amount of load which causes micro-damage to the muscle fibres which are then repaired by the body, making the muscle stronger. With BFRT, the primary mechanism of adaption is through metabolic stress, where repetitive motion in a lower oxygen environment caused by the restriction of blood flow causes a build-up of growth factors that induce increases in muscle size and power.

Is Blood Flow Restriction Therapy Safe?

When performed correctly and under supervised conditions, BFRT is very safe for the vast majority of people. There are several pre-existing medical conditions such a clotting disorders, very high blood pressure, unstable heart conditions, or deep vein thrombosis that would contradict the use of BFRT. However, we take great care to screen every potential BFRT patient thoroughly to ensure that is a safe therapy to employ as part of your care.

blood flow restriction therapy demonstration 2

What Can I Expect On My First Session?

Assuming that your condition may benefit from BFRT and you have no contraindications for its use, your first session is mostly an easy one. Firstly, we would use a computerised pressure sensor to tell us how much force you are able to produce from the muscle or joint in question. This is done so we can prescribe the appropriate amount of weight later on. Following this, we apply a BFRT cuff to the affected limb and assess the amount of pressure needed to completely stop all blood flow into the limb. This is done using a Doppler vascular ultrasound machine and is totally painless. Once we know how much pressure is needed to completely restrict blood flow to the limb and how much force you can produce from the affected muscle/joint, the correct pressure and weight are calculated, followed by gentle exercises as the BFRT begins. The typical first session exercise involves 4 sets of exercises at the targeted muscle group and utilises a high number of repetitions in each set.

How Long Do Results Take To Show?

For certain conditions such as knee and tendon pain, pain relief is often immediate and significant. This pain relief can last for several days following the session also. For other conditions where there is a significant loss of muscle power and size, it can take a few weeks until you start to notice a difference. Depending on the condition, we may perform several sessions of BFR Training and ask you to do it at home also.

Can BFRT Be Combined With Other Therapies?

Almost always! BFRT is particularly effective for knee pain and tendon injuries when used in conjunction with Shockwave Therapy. Otherwise, we would combine BFRT with other more standard physiotherapy interventions such as Manual Therapy, Electrotherapy, activity modification, and different types of exercises.

How Do I Find Out More About BFRT?

If you are interested in learning if BFRT is a suitable option for your rehabilitation, please do reach out to us. We will be happy to have a non-pressure chat and provide additional background on its use and suitability for your individual needs.

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