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Blood Flow Restriction Exercise

Traditional strength training requires a person to exercise at approximately 65-70% of their 1-rep max. But what if a person is limited in some manner that their joints cannot tolerate exercising under this much weight (e.g. degenerative joint condition, post-surgery) ? We now have options to help people gain strength while working at a much lower intensity.

Blood flow restriction (BFR) exercise, also known as occlusion training, has gained significant attention in the realm of post-surgery rehabilitation (i.e. following ACL repair) and pre-operative rehab in preparation for a knee surgery. This innovative approach involves the use of inflatable cuffs or bands placed on the limbs to partially restrict blood flow while performing low-intensity resistance exercises. After considering potential contraindications, BFR is a safe and effective treatment for many patients. BFR training has shown to prevent muscle atrophy in the early stages of rehabilitation, improve strength in joints that cannot tolerate high load, and improve cardiovascular endurance.

The exercise with BFR does induce some discomfort but serious side-effects are rare. The most common side-effects are: bruising, numbness/tingling, light-headedness, and skin irritation. The clinician can adjust the parameters of a session to address side-effects.


Hughes, Luke, et al. "Blood flow restriction training in clinical musculoskeletal rehabilitation: a systematic review and meta-analysis." British journal of sports medicine 51.13 (2017): 1003-1011.

Lorenz, Daniel S., et al. "Blood flow restriction training." Journal of athletic training 56.9 (2021): 937-944.

Wortman, Ryan J., et al. "Blood flow restriction training for athletes: A systematic review." The American journal of sports medicine 49.7 (2021): 1938-1944.

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