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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Faster Strength Gains with Half the Weight

The concept of weight training to gain strength has been around for thousands of years. In fact, drawings within Ancient Egyptian tombs depict weighted sandbags resembling today’s Olympic “clean and jerk” lift. In China, weightlifting requirements for military recruits date back even further to the Zhou Dynasty. Today we find the act of lifting weights to be pretty mainstream, inclusive of both gender and age, and a daily staple to the routine of those who want to build strength, stay fit, or fight osteoporosis. One other area where you may find strength and conditioning is through Physical Therapy and rehabilitation. 

For years dumbbells and resistance bands took the spotlight for patients needing to rebuild strength both postoperatively and in overcoming injury. The problem with using weight training to build strength is that most individuals overcoming injuries, especially the elderly, may not be able to withstand greater loads required to obtain strength and hypertrophy gains without risking further injury. Instead, a significant amount of time is needed to slowly & carefully build that strength so that patients do not inadvertently worsen their condition, resulting in extended therapy. In a 2013 study on anabolic resistance during a period of disuse following injury or surgery, a 350 gram loss of muscle and a 30% decline in muscle strength was found to occur. For athletes, this loss is significant and cannot be adequately or quickly replaced through low load exercises.

The good news is that recent breakthroughs have allowed therapists to adopt a new innovative form of rehabilitation in reducing risk of injury and fighting anabolic resistance while expediting the healing process. That technique is known as Personalized Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation, otherwise referred to as PBFR or BFR Therapy/Training.

The concept behind BFR Therapy is to partially restrict blood flow from an affected limb back to the heart by using a specialized tourniquet system to reduce vascular inflow and completely occlude vascular outflow to the limb. The restriction deprives the muscles of oxygen and creates a pooling of blood, which ultimately encourages muscle hypertrophy. As a result, patients are able to stress their muscles without physically taxing them through lifting lighter loads while receiving the same benefits as those lifting much heavier loads. Essentially, the patient is bypassing the need to slowly rebuild strength during recovery which makes BFR Therapy especially appealing to athletes looking to expedite the recovery process. Furthermore, no complications have been observed through the numerous studies and articles dedicated to BFR Therapy. Side effects are also rare and are most commonly associated with bruising at the tourniquet site.

So for who exactly is BFR Therapy and where can this technique be performed? Anyone can try BFR Therapy!  But those with particular interest may be athletes, patients following injury or surgery to limbs, and the elderly. BFR Therapy can also be used by uninjured athletes who simply wish to increase strength gains at an accelerated pace. The most reliable place to receive this form of therapy is through a BFR Certified Physical Therapist. While side effects are rare, a trained professional will know how to apply and utilize the equipment while monitoring the patient. A licensed Physical Therapist will also be more knowledgeable in understanding the anatomy involving the affected limb and in choosing the correct exercises to target the appropriate muscles for recovery.

Scott Gander and his team of Physical Therapy professionals at ProTouch Physical Therapy in Cranford, NJ work one-on-one with a wide variety of patients in overcoming injuries and surgery. If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to rebuild strength in a particular limb, ProTouch Physical Therapy and their BFR Certified Therapists can give you an evaluation to find the best customized treatment plan in accelerating your recovery safely.  Call (908) 325-6556 to verify your insurance coverage and set up your first appointment.