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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brandon

Working through an injury? Shave weeks off your recovery time with personalized BFR

Squat with BFR cuffs

Anybody who has ever had an injury that has sidelined them for more than a few weeks can tell you that it is depressing to see their hard earned muscle wither away. What's worse is that when you try to build it back, they often find that they either reinjure themselves because they tried to come back too soon or because they tried to lift heavy enough weights to be able to rebuild their muscles. This can create a vicious cycle of reinjury, rest, try to rebuild and then reinjure again. But, over the past 20 years, a new technology has been used in not only hundreds of studies but in the NBA, NFL, and Division 1 Collegiate sports to help people recover from injury faster and at lower weights(so less chance of reinjury). How are they doing this? Through Personalized BFR or Blood Flow Restriction training. 

So, what exactly is BFR and how does it work?

While BFR has 20+ years of research, it is really closer to about 50 years old, originally called Kaatsu training, it originally started with straps that weight-lifters would tighten around their arms or thighs to restrict blood flow and basically get to that burn that people who exercise feel when they push hard. With these bands in place, they were able to get to that burn at much lower weights. What they wouldn’t know is just how tight is too tight. In order for BFR to be safe, we need to personalize it and find the exact right pressure for you to work at. Fast forward to 2024, and our BFR trained therapists  at Body Mechanix Physiotherapy use personalized BFR to help our athletes and weekend warriors  get back to their sport sooner and stronger than before. So, how do we actually find what the right pressure is for you? 

It starts with a full health history with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy to make sure that it is not only safe but the right treatment for you. Next, your Physio will use a doppler ultrasound to determine the right pressure for our pneumatic surgical grade tourniquets. From there, we then use 50% of that pressure for lifts for the arms and 80% for the legs. 

Now for the cool part. Normally, in order to grow muscle, you need to lift at 65-80% of your 1 Rep Max(or how much you can pick up 1 time). Now, if you’re injured, this would only flare your injury. With BFR, we can now work at 20-35% of that 1 rep max which greatly reduces stress to your joints or strained muscles. Now, exercises that were not normally challenging before your injury feel like a high intensity workout. 

How does it work? 

In order to grow muscle, you need to get that muscle to fatigue, normally with heavy weight. The “burn” you get in the muscle is a chemical called Lactate(some people call it lactic acid). That chemical then triggers other chemicals in your body like growth hormone(HGH) and IGF to start to strengthen and grow the muscle. With BFR, because we’re limiting the muscles ability to get rid of lactate, it builds and builds so that signal is really strong to the rest of your body and we’re doing it with light loads which is ideal for people whose joints are inflamed and achy. 

The next big question is usually about safety? 

At Body Mechanix, our therapists are specifically trained in BFR safety and use clinical guidelines to determine if using BFR is safe or not for you. Our therapists take a very thorough health history including your current vitals to determine if it is both safe and right for you. Generally speaking, if you have a history of blood clots, have super high blood pressure, or have heart rhythm issues, we generally will not use BFR. 

What about blood clots

Interestingly enough, when they test the blood of people who’ve done BFR, they find that the body produces several  chemicals, specifically TPA which is a clot buster and prevents clots from forming. 

What if I can’t put weight through a joint

Are you non-weight bearing or partial-weight bearing after your surgery or are in an immobilizer. BFR can help and is used successfully days after the surgery to stop muscle loss and stimulate muscle growth. This way, the more muscle you have when you are allowed to bear weight the better base you have to start from.

What if I’m on weight lifting restrictions

Has your doctor or surgeon told you that you have lifting restrictions for your injury? No problem, most BFR programs can save or grow muscle with no added weight. 

What kinds of injuries does BFR Help?

BFR helps recovery from anything from muscle strains and tears to achilles tendon injury, ACL surgery, and even helping with stress fractures from overtraining. 

How long until you see results

Most research shows BFR begins working and starts to show results within 4 weeks of starting it. Standard strength training with heavy weights usually needs about 12 weeks before you start seeing size gains.

Wanting to learn if BFR is right for you? Confused about where to start?  Schedule your free BFR consult and see if it is right for you.  Need help now? Come by and talk with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy at no charge. We offer FREE consultations, which give you the opportunity to come in and meet us and see for yourself how we can help you.

Here are just a few of the things you will learn in one of our free consultation:

  • What is the underlying cause of your pain? (hopefully nothing too serious!)

  • Roughly, how long will it take to fix the problem?

  • What to do to help – which doesn’t include painkillers, resting or surgery etc.

  • What other, natural, drug free methods are there to speed up recovery alongside treatment?

Our consultations are great for anyone that may be “unsure” if physio is right for them, and they give you the opportunity to ask questions and see for yourself if we can help you.

If you’d like one of our limited free consultation sessions, please click here to schedule your free consultation or CALL us on 850-765-2779 to make a no-obligation enquiry.

About the Author

dr brandon

Dr. Brandon is the owner and a Physio at Body Mechanix Physiotherapy and Fitness. Four of his favorite people call him daddy while he's been married to his other favorite person for 21 years. He enjoys teaching martial arts and is a Mestrando in Capoeira while in the mornings, he can be found working out with the guys in F3 around town.  He's the author of 4 pain relief guides for sciatica, low back, shoulder, and knees and the lead contributor to the Active Tallahassee Blog.

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