Blood flow restriction (BFR) is a training method that enables therapists to mimic the stress and biological response that lifting heavy weights causes within the body while only requiring the use of light and manageable weights. This form of therapy involves applying external pressure to an extremity with the goal of maintaining inflow of blood to the area while obstructing outflow away from the restricted site, as described by the American Physical Therapy Association.
In clinical research, BFR has been shown to lead to:
- Improved muscular strength
- Increased muscle volume
- Prevention of muscular atrophy
- Development of newer and healthier blood vessels
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Improved bone mineral density
BFR is especially helpful in the physical therapy and rehabilitation setting as it allows therapists to create the necessary environment for hypertrophy (muscle growth) without compromising a repaired ligament, tendon or joint. This technology has the potential to speed up recovery times, increase muscle mass, and decrease post-surgery muscle atrophy, though this technology is not exclusively for post-surgical patients.