Living Well: Blood Flow Restriction Therapy

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- A new machine at Baptist Health is changing the way people rebuild body strength after an injury.

A local man who suffered a knee injury credits the machine with greatly improving his quality of life.

A game of Ultimate Frisbee that ended with a PCL tear left John Venters with a difficult task because he had a hard time walking.

"I've always been physically active. I couldn't really do anything as far as movement," Venters explains.

Two months after the accident, a doctor recommended Venters get blood flow restriction therapy. The Baptist Health therapy center on Bowman got the new machine to help patients strengthen muscle mass.

The way it works is you apply a tourniquet to the injured arm or leg to restrict blood flow.

"It puts your body in a state where you can lift quite a bit of less weight, but still get the benefit of lifting something very heavy," says Jason Hanan, a physical therapist.

Blood flow restriction is only used for the arms and legs, so for patients like Venters, Hanan says it's doing wonders.

"It allows people to strengthen more quickly with less strain on their joints," he adds.

While doing repetitive exercise, a cuff on Venter's ankle limits oxygen going to his muscles and also prevents blood from returning to the heart.

"What that will do is will cause a buildup of lactate, which is going to be the burn you feel when we exercise," Hanan continues.

"It was the first time in several months that I actually kind of had that sensation of 'oh like my muscles are exhausted right now,' like it's starting to work things out," Venters says of his experience.

The machine is promising to patients with different backgrounds, Hanan says. 

"From the young active athlete to the older person who's losing muscle mass, to the people who have degenerative joints who haven't been able to tolerate what we've been asking them to do in therapy," he continues.

Instead of surgery, Venters figured he'd give blood flow restriction therapy a try and so far he's seeing results in a short turnaround.

If you're interested in blood flow restriction therapy, talk to your doctor about getting a referral.


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