Since the beginning of modern-day physical therapy in the early 1900s, the profession has evolved. Many treatment philosophies and modalities have come and gone. The more effective treatments withstand research trials and clinical effectiveness. In recent decades, a blood flow restriction method (Blood Flow Restriction Training / BFRT) has emerged and continues to gain a large base of research and demonstrate clinical effectiveness.

How does BFRT work?

BFRT is the application of a medical grade tourniquet to the upper or lower extremities to briefly and partially occlude blood flow in/out of the extremity. During the period of occlusion, various exercises may be performed to stimulate the desired outcome. By occluding blood flow during exercise, the body releases hormones and stimulates metabolic responses that typically occur while lifting heavy weights. This promotes muscle growth, and strength improvements. Research shows that in combination with BFRT, only 20 to-30 percent of typical loads are required for similar outcomes.


Many injuries result in decreased strength, deconditioning and atrophy (decrease in muscle size). As a physical therapist, we set goals to address these issues. Unfortunately, in many cases, the patient cannot tolerate the amount of exercise needed to promote the response needed to achieve these goals. This may be due to pain, injuries or surgical restrictions. BFRT provides an option to gain strength, endurance, and promote muscle growth without requiring traditional exercise intensities.

Who can benefit?

BFRT has a wide variety of applications. Individuals who are bedridden can benefit to mitigate muscle loss. Pre-operative application can have positive results on post-operative healing times. Post-operative use of BFRT is widely utilized as tissue healing times often require a period of restricted activity. Finally, BFRT has application in many disease processes that cause weakness and deconditioning such as arthritis.

Would I be a candidate for BFRT?

BFRT has been shown to be a safe treatment for many conditions. As with any treatment, it is best to consult your physician or physical therapist to see if you are a candidate for BFRT. You will be screened to indicate whether BFRT is appropriate for you.

Guest blogger, Matt Gundlach, PT, DPT, CSCS

Matt is accepting new patients at 2500 W. Strub Road in Sandusky, Ohio


Matt Gundlach, PT, DPT, CSCS