Blood flow restriction rehabilitation, or BFR, is a new and different way to rehabilitate muscle injuries, particularly those occurring in an arm or leg.
Professional sports teams have used BFR for quite some time to help athletes recover from injuries. The technology is now available to patients at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services (CRS).
What Is Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation?
BFR uses a Food and Drug Administration-approved surgical tourniquet system that looks very similar to a blood pressure cuff. The system is placed on an injured arm or leg to periodically reduce blood flow to the limb while the patient performs specific exercises.
Limiting blood flow to the muscles (a process called occlusion) allows the patient to work the muscles without placing excessive weight on the limb. The use of BFR can vary throughout treatment.
“We are constantly studying state-of-the-art clinical practices and the latest research to benefit our patients,” says physical therapist Jim Burns, facility director at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services in Uniontown. “BFR is a new tool to add to our toolbox.”
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Who Benefits from Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation?
According to physical therapist Corey Nesser, BFR can safely be used to rehab patients with most types of muscular injuries.
“The chance of forming a blood clot during BFR is no greater than a blood clot forming as a result of traditional therapy methods,” he says. “We probably wouldn’t recommend it for an elderly patient who might not be able to tolerate the occlusion very well, though.”
CRS staff use BFR most commonly in patients recovering from:
- Fractures that don’t grow back together or heal properly
- Anterior cruciate ligament injuries
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Achilles tendon injuries
How Does Blood Flow Restriction Rehabilitation Work?
BFR forces the body to activate all muscles on the limb where the blood flow is being restricted. It can be incorporated into traditional physical therapy sessions, just as other techniques or equipment might be.
For more information about blood flow restriction rehabilitation at UPMC Centers for Rehab services, call 1-888-723-4CRS (4277) or visit UPMC.com/4CRS.
“We’ll first have the patient work the injured muscle through traditional, weight-bearing physical therapy exercises, and then end with BFR,” Jim says. “This ensures the injured muscles have been worked to their fullest and, ultimately, can aid in faster recovery times.”
Where to Find Blood Flow Restriction Therapy
“I would encourage anyone to ask their therapist about blood flow restriction rehabilitation,” says Corey.
CRS currently offer BFR at four of its more than 70 locations:
- UPMC Centers for Rehab Services-Uniontown
- UPMC Centers for Rehab Services-UPMC St. Margaret
- UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex
- UPMC Rooney Sports Complex
Whatever your therapy need – physical, occupational, or speech – UPMC Centers for Rehab Services can create a personalized treatment plan for you. We have more than 60 outpatient facilities throughout our communities, with convenient hours for your schedule. Our therapies follow the most up-to-date research for rehabilitation. We treat numerous conditions, from arthritis and tendinitis, to injuries and symptoms related to other medical conditions. Visit our website for more information.