At Sport + Spine, maximizing performance is the lifeblood that flows through everything we do here. Whether you are a competitive athlete hoping to take your game to the next level or a post-op patient needing to regain strength and functionality, it is our mission to get you where you need and want to be…and keep encouraging you to push forward. We are continuously researching and adding innovative and effective treatments to our team repertoire, assisting you in not only reaching but perhaps zooming right on past your set goals for quicker recovery and higher performance. For this reason, Sport + Spine is excited to announce that we have added Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training to our available treatment options.
Ethan McCoy, one of the stellar physical therapists on our S+S team, is certified in Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation and is thrilled to be able to offer it to S+S patients. “While originally used primarily for its rapid strength-gaining and hypertrophy effects in athletes, BFR is proving to have very positive therapeutic outcomes for post-op patients and even those who are suffering from severe cases of tendinitis,” says Ethan. He further explains, “The natural growth hormone that is released in the body during BFR, an event that otherwise requires extremely intense/heavy workouts in order to have the same effect, allows damaged tissue to repair and rebuild through exercises requiring much less weight and less time. BFR can even help elderly patients fight the effects of aging, including sarcopenia (loss of muscle tissue), decreased balance and decreased bone density.”
So, what exactly is BFR Training and how does it work? Beginning with an ultra-brief circulatory system recap: arteries take oxygenated blood away from the heart to fuel the body, veins bring mostly deoxygenated blood back to the heart. With BFR Training, a tourniquet system is used, wrapping the uppermost portion of the limb to allow the oxygenated blood to flow to the muscles or injured area but restricts the deoxygenated return. As this occurs, the oxygen-deprived slow-twitch muscle fibers rapidly fatigue, causing your body to trigger fast-twitch muscle fibers which have the most potential for growth. Typically, this reaction only occurs under heavy lifting and/or through endurance training. However, BFR Training offers the same results while sparing joints and tendons the aggressive wear and tear.
Why choose BFR Training and is it safe? The goal of BFR Training is to safely reduce enough blood flow to create a positive, noticeable change in hypertrophy and strength. However, this target pressure level varies between individuals. Many factors must be taken into account when determining an individual’s personalized pressure. Such factors include size of limb, density of the soft tissue in the limb, blood pressure, and placement and width of the tourniquet cuff. At Sport + Spine, we utilize the Delfi Personalized Tourniquet System (PTS). The Delfi PTS uses a built-in monitor to account for the aforementioned variables and allows the tourniquet to adjust pressure accordingly as the individual is exercising. The occlusion (restriction) percentage and BFR Training protocol will also be adjusted as needed. A competitive athlete with a goal of maximum hypertrophy and strength is going to have a BFR training routine with exercises and an occlusion percentage that is vastly different from an elderly patient simply hoping to regain better balance while walking. Adverse side effects are rare with this treatment. The most common adverse effects after BFR training are residual swelling in the limb, a fatigued muscle(s), and/or mild soreness. These results are transient and usually resolve within 24 hours.
What can I expect during and after my BFR Training session? Once your personalized pressure has been determined using the Delfi PTS, you will begin specific exercises based on your impairments and rehabilitation plan. You will continue to wear the cuff as you exercise, your blood pressure being monitored continuously and the cuff adjusting accordingly. Even though you will be lifting light weight or performing light load activities, your muscles will begin to feel like they are working extremely hard. This is the intended effect so no worries! It is the result of the build-up of lactate, the desired response of BFR training. Upon completion of the exercise session, you will have accumulated sufficient lactate to initiate many positive effects, including an increase in growth hormone and other anabolic muscle growth factors. In addition, an increase in muscle protein synthesis will aid in your muscles’ ability to recover and grow. Furthermore, working with light loads will decrease the amount of muscle breakdown, allowing your body to recover more quickly. The array of significant positive effects of BFR Training combined with a lack of negative outcomes results in quick hypertrophy and strength gains, sometimes in as little as two weeks!
We at Sport + Spine are pumped about BFR Training and the great impact it can have on your performance/rehab, anticipating that once you’ve tried it, you’ll strongly agree. No puns intended. Oh, who are we kidding? Those puns were completely intentional and perhaps even deserving of an enthusiastic award, aka HyperTrophy. Too far? OK. Seriously, book an appointment today and check it out!