What Is Blood Flow Restriction?

Blood flow restriction training is a technique used to help with maintaining muscle mass during physical therapy. Typically one cannot start strength training until they have functional range of motion with no pain. Other instances following surgery require waiting periods before strength training can occur. Utilizing pressure cuffs can allow physical therapist and patients to reduce the amount of muscle atrophy following injury.

A special cuff is placed around the arms or hips to reduce blood flow out of the area. The cuffs are inflated to a certain percentage to still allow some arterial flow into the area but restrict venous flow out. This decreases the amount of oxygen available to the muscles and increases the amount of blood in the area which both can promote tissue break down and growth. 

To grow, muscle tissue must be broken down and then repaired to a larger degree. Typically this is done by lifting heavy enough weights to cause microtears within the muscle fibers. However, when the cuff is on we can accomplish the same amount of tissue damage with less resistance or weight. Typically this technique is used to help maintain muscle mass leading up to an event or help regain lost size. It can help with hypertrophy but shouldn’t be used to replace regular strength training. It is important this technique is done correctly to prevent potential injury or damage to the tissue. 

Athlete getting blood flow restriction training on the hip