Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training
If you have diabetes or neuropathy, or you’re trying to recover your full strength after an injury or surgery, building and maintaining strong supporting muscles in your feet and legs is absolutely critical if you want to restore your mobility and reduce your risk of future problems.
However, there may be a significant problem. While strength training is hugely important, it isn’t always particularly safe, depending on your circumstances.
Building muscle strength, under normal circumstances, requires high-load resistance training. If your foot and leg muscles have been sufficiently weakened due to chronic illnesses or significant injuries, they simply may not be able to handle the intensity of the force loads that would be required for effective strength training or rehab.
This unfortunately can lead to a vicious cycle in which your muscles continue to weaken, putting you at increasing risk of further problems.
Fortunately, there is a solution that may work for you, and we offer it here at Capital Podiatry Associates: Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training.
What Is Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) and How Can It Help Me?
BFR is a physical therapy technique used to “simulate” the benefits of high-intensity training for targeted muscle groups while only performing low-load resistance exercise.
In BFR, a pneumatic cuff (similar to a blood pressure cuff) is placed around your leg, adjacent to the muscle groups you’ll be training, and inflated to achieve “partial occlusion pressure.” (The actual amount of pressure required will vary from person to person). This reduces (but does not cut off) blood flow and oxygen delivery to the targeted muscles.
With less circulating oxygen and blood flow, you don’t need to use as heavy a load to trigger the natural cell signaling, hormonal shifts, and protein synthesis mechanisms used by your body to promote enlargement and strengthening of the muscle fibers.
As a result, BFR may be able to help you quickly and safely build muscle without putting already weakened muscle fibers, connective tissues, or bones at elevated risk.
Who Can Benefit from Blood Flow Restriction Training?
BFR may be recommended for a wide variety of patients who need to build strength in their feet and legs, but for whom traditional high-load strength-training exercises may not be recommended or appropriate.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- People with diabetes and/or peripheral neuropathy. BFR training (when performed under strict supervision of an experienced professional) can help you gain strength while reducing risk of wounds, fractures, or other accidental injuries.
- People with foot or ankle osteoarthritis. Strength training can significantly reduce painful symptoms of arthritis, without being a cause of further pain or joint deterioration.
- People with chronic ankle instability. If your ankles are prone to giving way due to a history of ankle sprains, BFR can significantly increase the safety and effectiveness of your rehab.
- People recovering from Achilles ruptures, other severe traumatic injuries, or surgery. BFR can let you begin rehab sooner, shorten your overall recovery timeline, and reduce your risk of long-term complications.
- High-performance athletes. Long-term use of BFR training alongside conventional high-load strength training can allow you to build muscle mass even faster than would otherwise be safely achievable. This can help athletes boost their performance or even prolong their competitive careers.
- Older adults. Muscle tone, balance, coordination, and range of motion all tend to decrease with age. BFR can help older adults regain and maintain their physical activity levels and reduce their fall risk.
BFR at Capital Podiatry Associates
BFR is not a “do it yourself” therapy option. It should always be conducted under the direct supervision of an expert. While BFR can be a major benefit to your health when performed correctly, it can still be dangerous when done improperly—especially for those with circulatory issues (including severe high blood pressure and those at increased risk of developing blood clots).
Our experts can help determine whether BFR is an appropriate physical therapy approach for your situation, and make sure it is performed in a way that maximizes benefits to your feet and legs while minimizing the risks.
Your Best Choice for Foot & Ankle Care in the DC Area
At Capital Podiatry Associates, we are committed to providing the best, most effective, and safest treatment options to all our patients. To schedule an appointment with our team in Alexandria, VA, please call (703) 560-3773 today. You can also request an appointment online, if you prefer.