Holy Name Medical Center Blog

Blood Flow Restriction Training Boosts Strength and Speeds Recovery

Posted by Justin Jacob, PT, DPT
Creamer Family Physical Rehabilitation Center on June 3, 2021
Justin Jacob, PT, DPT

Are you looking for a safe and effective method to recover more quickly from injury or to rebuild your strength after illness or surgery? Perhaps Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training should be part of your physical therapy.

The technique, long used by the military and athletic trainers to speed recovery, has increasingly become part of physical therapy regimens as evidence mounts about its effectiveness.

The technique is relatively simple and safe. A surgical grade tourniquet – similar to a blood pressure cuff - is applied to a patient’s limb, briefly and intermittently, while the patient is exercising with low resistance.

When the tourniquet is removed, oxygen, proteins and other nutrients that have pooled during compression rush to the injured or affected area. This intensifies the workout – making exercise with light weights produce the benefits of a much higher resistance routine.

Patients who are recovering from injury, infirmity or inactivity, as well as the elderly, generally cannot safely tolerate the moderate-to-high intensity resistance exercise needed to maximize muscle strength and speed recovery. BFR allows them the benefits of a much higher resistance workout, meaning a faster recovery and an increase in strength and endurance.

Safe for All Ages

BFR is safe: Blood is partially restricted from the arteries that feed the muscle but fully restricted from veins that carry the blood out of the area. There is no risk of blood clots; in fact, BFR improves blood flow to injured areas. It’s appropriate for most ages, provided the patient doesn’t have an underlying illness such as untreated high blood pressure.

The effectiveness of BFR has been chronicled in hundreds of peer-reviewed articles. The technique has been applied to numerous orthopedic injuries, and there is ongoing clinical research on using it in therapy for some neurological injuries and deficits.

BFR can reduce the number of physical therapy sessions needed by a patient. The cuff can be placed on either the shoulder, to benefit the arm, shoulder and core, or on the hip, to help areas of the leg. Generally we do an hour session of up to six exercises, each for a duration of eight minutes, deflating the cuff in between. Use of the proper cuff and its proper calibration is important, and there are no major side effects.

BFR Requires the Skill of a Physical Therapist

At Holy Name Medical Center, we use the Delfi personalized tourniquet system, which, in my opinion, is the safest and most reliable BFR device. I am the only hospital-based physical therapist who is certified in Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation (PBFR) from Owens Recovery Science (ORS), and I have educated our staff on its use.

The American Physical Therapy Association has recognized BFR as part of the scope of practice for therapists trained in the technique. Patients should not try this on their own. Physical therapists have the knowledge and the right equipment for the safe application of BFR.

The technique can be a game-changer in PT. It can help patients make greater strength training gains while lifting lighter loads and reducing overall stress on the body. People are getting stronger faster and with less risk of injury.

Justin Jacob, PT, DPT, received his doctorate in physical therapy from Seton Hall University. He is certified in Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation (PBFR) from Owens Recovery Science (ORS). He focuses on outpatient orthopedics, with a passion for manual therapy.

Dr. Jacob practices at Holy Name’s Creamer Family Physical Rehabilitation Center. All patients are welcome, even if they have not undergone procedures or surgeries at Holy Name. Sessions are by appointment, with evening and Saturday time slots available. Most services require a physician's referral. Call for further information or an appointment: 201-833-3085.