A muscular man concentrates as he lifts two large dumbbell weights over his shoulders at the gym.

Blood flow restriction

Blood flow restriction training to help accelerate recovery

If you’ve been injured or are recovering from an orthopedic surgery, blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy is a proven strengthening technique that can aid your recovery.

By exercising a target muscle group while reducing the blood flow to the same area, you can regain endurance, strength and muscle growth without stressing joints or tissues that are still healing. BFR can also help prevent muscle atrophy and muscle soreness.

What is blood flow restriction therapy?

Blood flow restriction, also known as BFR or occlusion training, is a type of physical therapy that uses a cuff to temporarily restrict blood flow to a muscle, or a group of muscles, while exercising. This cuff is similar to the cuff you wear during blood pressure checks.

The amount of pressure used to restrict blood flow will vary among patients. While pressure is applied, you’ll perform directed exercises to tire the muscles in the targeted area. This helps to stimulate the body’s natural healing capabilities.

Restricting blood flow reduces the oxygen level in certain muscles. Reducing oxygen makes the body think it’s working harder than it is. This enables you to lift lighter weights and get the same benefit as though you were lifting something much heavier, which then increases the hormone production necessary to build muscles and help you get stronger. BFR is a great training option for people who have weight-bearing restrictions on certain muscles during recovery from an injury or after a surgery.

Combining low-intensity exercises with blood flow restriction creates a similar feeling to when you’re performing moderate to high-intensity resistance training.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Studies show this kind of training is as low risk as traditional exercise. If you have a heart condition, issues with blood clots, are pregnant or have cancer, it is best to consult your doctor first.

Blood flow restriction can be used on almost any part of the body. We may recommend BFR for patients recovering from surgical or nonsurgical procedures to help their recovery and relieve pain. This type of treatment is especially useful for people who have weight-bearing restrictions on certain muscles.

We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, PreferredOne and many others.

You can check with your insurance to see if your plan covers part or all of the services needed. Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started: