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  • Emma B

The Benefits Of Blood Flow Restriction Therapy: Why You Should Try It

The training was developed in Japan, in the 1960s by Yoshiaki Sato. Using old bicycle tubes, ropes and bands to experiment on himself until he was able to research in a safe clinical environment at the University of Tokyo. We do not recommend this training to be used with bicycle tubes, ropes and bands, it is to be done with a professional in a safe environment.

This is an alternate training method to develop muscle strength and hypertrophy (muscle growth), recently grown in popularity in the last decade. Typically seen in athletic environments to really push the muscles but can be used clinically.

So how does this work?

The equipment is made up of specialised inflatable cuffs which need to be placed at the highest comfortable position of the chosen limb, most likely to be the arm or the leg.

The bands start to compress which starves the muscle of normal blood flow (venous occlusion) just enough for chemical stress to ensue which causes the muscle tissue to break down. The chemical stress we are talking about is the production of lactic acid which can be induced by BFRT through anaerobic metabolism which is when energy is created by burning carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen, in which BFRT starves the area of the oxygen.

As the only way muscle tissue increases in strength and size are for it to be broken down through these processes and rebuilt, this means that we are creating the chemical changes which normally occur through strength training, without the strength training.

When can it be used?

Often used for patients pre or postoperative, specifically knee surgery such as joint replacement or ligament reconstruction.

It can be useful for patients who are preoperative to increase the strength and the quadricep size as most surgeries put stress on this area the most, making the surgery less stressful on the body and rehabilitation afterward easier. It also allows for the patients who are new to performing exercises or using equipment a chance to practise.

Most postoperative rehabilitation includes strength training. The average person thinks of strength training as the bodybuilder in the gym grunting away in the corner, which can deter people from completing their rehabilitation exercises. However, when the bands are used in conjunction with low-load exercises, which are performed in early-stage rehabilitation the patient can improve and hit the key targets quickly.

This is much more valuable for the geriatric population in which the stresses of normal strength training and exercise may be unable to perform due to poor co-ordination or too much pain.

Research suggests that hypertrophy is the main outcome of this training. Long-term effects have not been studied effectively to conclude this.

For any other information give MSK doctors a call on 0330 001 0048 or email at


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