When does ten-pounds feel like 50? The answer? When you’re restricting blood flow while working your muscles. Blood flow restriction might seem like an odd concept. Right? Why would someone want to restrict blood flow? Wouldn’t that be harmful? Wouldn’t hurt? But if you’ve been injured or had surgery, a blood flow restriction device (BFR) –– think pneumatic tourniquet –– might be the key to quick and powerful healing. That’s why the Miller-Dwan Foundation purchased the only FDA-approved BFR device to be used specifically by certified physical rehabilitation therapists.
I met certified physical therapist, Jared Eickhoff and his patient, Kyle, during physical therapy. Kyle sports injury required surgery that limited his activities while his tissues healed. As part of the normal process, his muscles became smaller and weaker. When he was ready for physical therapy, the BFR device allowed Kyle to work harder blunting his post-surgical atrophy. So how does all of this work?
BFR is a physical therapy technique that can help build muscle strength without requiring the heavy weights that would overload a healing joint. Like a blood pressure cuff, the BFR device, when placed around an arm or leg, will inflate and restrict the blood flow to that limb during exercise. I watched as Kyle performed three minutes of kettlebell squats, his leg turning slightly blue as blood pooled in his calf. He felt a burning fatigue but no pain. Then the cuff automatically released based on preset individualized settings. Fresh oxygenated blood, nutrients and muscle growth promoting hormones rushed into his limb aiding his healing process. Kyle expected to be out on the running trails by spring.
BFR can be used for many injuries: post-operative procedures, ligament sprains, and strains to muscles or tendons. It can also benefit the elderly. But beware. Some devices on the market do more harm than good. But you can always depend on the Miller-Dwan Foundation, in partnership with the most highly educated clinicians, to purchase the very best state-of-the-art equipment. Every year, new healthcare technology becomes available giving our patients ever more opportunities for health and healing. Every year, the need outweighs our financial resources. But with your help, we can assure that, no matter your injury and no matter your illness, you’ll have access to the best healthcare available. Go to mdfoundation.org to learn more and offer your support.
Watch this video of the BFR in action: