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Let's Talk Blood Flow

Updated: Jan 27

One of the biggest challenges in recovering from an injury is being able to strengthen your muscles without irritating the painful condition. It can be a very fine line to walk early on with a new injury and sometimes can remain difficult for months following. This concept is known as tissue resilience and when resilience is poor, we often find injuries linger much longer than they should.


Let's Look At An Example

Consider what would happen if you strained a muscle in your thigh, let's say your hamstring. Within the first few hours and days, it hurts constantly; walking is painful, running is out of the question, and you can't move your leg without difficulty. Tissue resilience is very poor. Of course, this shouldn't be a permanent limitation but in the beginning, exercise is out of the question. Don't worry, this is 100% normal with a 'fresh' injury.


Now consider the same hamstring strain that just seems to be stagnant. It's been weeks and you still haven't seen much progress. Walking is better but still bothersome, you tried running and only made it to the end of your driveway, and the back of your thigh aches even without any resistance in your normal exercise program. Tissue resilience is still poor and you clearly need treatment to get this injury under control. The only problem is, you still aren't able to tolerate much in the way of stress or exercise without feeling more pain.


Treatments like Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) provide a perfect solution to problems like this. BFR 'tricks' muscles into thinking and feeling like they are working harder than they actually are. BFR uses calibrated bands to restrict blood from leaving the muscles, causing them to fatigue much earlier than they normally would. Your muscles feel the same 'hunger' for blood and oxygen as they do with intense exercise.


Bigger Picture

The main benefit is that less force and stress is needed to elicit fatigue and promote muscle strength and size. Looking back at our hamstring strain example, the more stress you place on your hamstring, the more pain you feel. But, at the same time, adding no stress to the muscle is not allowing it to strengthen and heal completely. Using the calibrated Blood Flow Restriction bands, you would now be able to strengthen the strained muscle without using the resistance that caused pain.


What Can BFR Help?

The hamstring strain case above is only 1 example of how BFR can help assist in the recovery of an injury. BFR has been shown to enhance recovery in the following conditions;

  • Muscle strains/tears

  • Ligament sprains/tears

  • Deconditioning

  • Post-operative conditions of the upper and lower extremities

  • Fractures of the upper and lower extremities

  • Arthritis

Safety

The idea of restricting blood flow can bring up some questions about safety. BFR is designed to reduce blood flow OUT of the extremity, not stop it. Full occlusion of an extremity, like a tourniquet used in surgery or the cuff used to take blood pressure, could be a concern if left on for too long or if not monitored by a healthcare professional. There are several studies looking at hundreds of thousands of BFR sessions and have concluded that it is safe and effective. All BFR sessions performed at TruMotion are directly monitored by the Doctor of Physical Therapy to ensure all safety measures are observed.


If you think you have a condition that may benefit from Blood Flow Restriction or just want to learn more about the service, contact us today!


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