Getting Strong Without Getting Hurt

By Dev K. Mishra, M.D., President, Sideline Sports Doc. Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University

Key Points:

  • Blood flow restriction training with B Strong straps allows for strength gains with very low resistance loads
  • The low loads mean that a person with joint conditions or recent surgery can maintain and gain strength without causing joint pain or risking a surgical repair
  • This is a real game-changer in the world of strength training with safe, natural methods

Many injured athletes and other patients I see need to get stronger in order to improve their function or performance. But for many of these folks getting strong through traditional resistance based strength training might lead to pain, or be dangerous after surgery. I wrote a few weeks back about a technique called blood flow restriction training, in which strength gains are made through very low load resistance. I believe there is great benefit for athletes with painful conditions, or rehab after surgery.

Common scenarios would be: a young athlete with patellofemoral syndrome who has a hard time gaining strength because the exercises increase knee cap pain; an older athlete with knee arthritis who increases pain with resistance training; or anyone after ACL surgery where incorrect or overly aggressive strengthening could harm the surgery result.

I spoke recently with Dr. James Stray-Gundersen, co-founder of B Strong and team physician with the U.S. Olympic teams. Dr. Stray-Gundersen emphasizes that the use of the resistance straps changes the body’s natural response to exercise and allows for increased circulation of our own internally produced healing hormones such as HGH and many others. He explains there are two key aspects for the athlete with an impairment such as knee pain, or anyone who has had surgery:

  1. The injured area is able to achieve strength gains with very low loads, which drastically reduces any potential joint soreness
  2. In a joint that’s had recent surgery the straps minimize atrophy in the surgical limb and at the same time allow safe exercise for the uninvolved limbs

He gave further detail:

“Perhaps the biggest thing B Strong training does is mitigate disuse atrophy that occurs when a person has to stop their normal activities due to injury or operation.  B Strong allows maintenance of training stress despite the setback of the injury, when standard training is impossible or would delay healing or damage the repair.  We want to exercise as much of the body’s muscle mass as possible, without risking further injury to the healing injury or operation.

So, for example, with an ACL repair or a total hip, I would start upper body B Strong on the 1st day post op.  I am doing this for 2 main reasons.  First, to mitigate atrophy in the rest of the body and second, to get as big of a systemic effect as possible to optimize healing resources.  Then usually by Day 3 post op, I am doing both upper body and lower body B Strong (taking care to not put a band across a fresh incision).

On the operated leg, it may only be gentle, non-weight bearing, ROM exercises with the bands on, but it is exercise.  Ideally we do daily sessions with patients and progress the exercises as tolerated, always cognizant of not disturbing the healing injury or operation.  Exercises are always easy enough that they are done with proper form.  Results are remarkable and come remarkably fast.

So in summary, B Strong training in the rehab setting is exercise mainly for the uninjured parts of the body, while making sure we don’t disturb the healing injury or operation. This approaches accelerates the patient’s return to their previous activities compared to the current standard of care.Logo

B Strong BFR Training is really a “doable” form of exercise in people with the special consideration of a musculoskeletal injury or operation.”

In my opinion this is a real game changer. If you’re trying to maintain or increase strength and having a hard time because the exercises cause pain, or if you’ve had recent surgery I’d strongly encourage you to discuss B Strong resistance training with your doctor and physical therapist.

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