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One of the most common sources of joint pain is our muscles’ inability to provide support. After age 30, most people lose around 3% to 5% of our muscle mass per decade. This is why strength training is important to maintain the ability to walk, jump, and lift as we age. Unfortunately, not everyone has that option. For elderly populations and those recovering from surgery, loss of muscle mass makes exercise difficult or even painful. This, in turn, can lead to even more difficulty getting around and can create a vicious cycle. It’s a sad reality for many patients in pain: those that need to strength train the most often struggle to do so.
A new machine is changing the way physical therapists get patients back on their feet. i’move is one of the first organizations to utilize the BFR machine at its Spring Lake/Cove location. The BFR, or blood flow restriction, machine uses science to allow our patients the chance to build up muscle mass in a safe environment while putting less pressure on the muscles and joints involved. For many, this treatment is the bridge to pain-free, functional movement.
What is BFR?
Much like its name, the Blood Flow Restriction Machine restricts blood flow to the desired area of the body such as the knee, ankle or elbow. This lack of blood flow beefs up the lactic acid produced during exercise, a key component in building muscle. Regular strength training puts pressure on the joints, often causing pain and risking further injury. With BFR, patients can successfully build muscle mass quickly while performing very simple activities. It allows for the benefits of exercise with reduced risks.
Who can use it?
The ideal candidates for BFR are elderly populations or those recovering from/preparing for surgery. Specifically, it works well for those with issues of the elbow, hip, foot, knee or ankle, as well as those with arthritis or meniscus tears. On top of constant supervision with your physical therapist, i’move collaborates with your physician to ensure progress is made and to minimize risks. BFR is an FDA Class 1 Approved device – meaning it has passed multiple safety tests, reducing risks for patients.
Recovery is not a solo act. A conversation with your physician ensures the patient’s best interests are always in mind.
How it Works
Under the continual supervision of your physical therapist, an approved patient would wear the BFR tourniquet cuff around their thigh or upper arm. The cuff restricts the blood flow below it, much like what happens when your blood pressure is taken at the doctor’s office.
With the cuff on, the patient will work their way up through a series of exercises over multiple sessions. Treatment always starts off slowly in order for patients to build a tolerance to BFR. A patient’s first session may consist of exercising while laying down. Gradually, your physical therapist will walk you through exercises while sitting up, then eventually standing. With the BFR machine, progressive exercises and repetitions are needed in order to see results. The goal is to work toward practicing everyday movements with the tourniquet on, so patients eventually get the strength to move and support themselves on their own.
There are mild side effects when using the BFR machine. Just as one feels with any workout, patients may experience muscle fatigue or soreness. In addition, you may feel numbness or a tingling sensation during treatment, similar to the feeling that often accompanies getting your blood pressure taken. In extreme cases, light bruising may occur. A physical therapist always monitors treatment, and patients are encouraged to talk to their doctor throughout the experience. A full team of support is here to ensure the best possible results.
See for Yourself
If you are interested in BFR treatment, ask both your physician and your physical therapist if you would be a good candidate. More information on BFR can be found on the creator’s website. You can also take a look at the BFR machine yourself at our Cove location:
18000 Cove St, Suite 202
Spring Lake, MI 49456
For more information on this or other treatments from i’move, schedule a pain assessment with a physical therapist. We’ll help you make a plan to address your pain points and grow stronger so you can enjoy a full and active life pain-free.