PIEDMONT, Okla. (KFOR) – A unique approach to healing is getting Oklahomans back to their daily lives faster after surgery or injury.
It may seem counter-intuitive – but cutting off blood flow is helping them get back on their feet.
One patient seeing benefits is a Piedmont volleyball player.
“I tore my ACL in June practicing for the school,” said Julie Castillo. “I was kind of sad because I missed out on my sophomore season.”
Castillo did not want to spend much time on the sidelines.
Not long after surgery to repair her ACL, she found a possible course back to the court – a unique therapy at Valir Physical Therapy – blood flow restriction training.
So she signed up – and strapped up – with a device that’s a lot like a blood pressure cuff but it targets specific areas and specific needs.
“The way that it works is that we simply just occlude some of the blood flow,” said Valir Physical Therapist Brandon Scharrer. “We put it either on the arm or on the leg, depending on what we’re trying to target.”
Then, patients do typical strength training with a lighter load.
“You do it at 20 to 30% of what their maximum effort is on that,” Scharrer said. “So it’s way, way lower and way less stress being put on the joints, on those muscles than if we’re trying to do something that’s high intensity.”
With the restricted blood flow, it feels like one of those high intensity workouts and provides the same benefits.
“There is a huge population of people that have a surgery and six months, nine months, 12 months down the road, they’re still really, really weak and really atrophied or small muscle growth,” Scharrer said. “This can help avoid some of that so that they get back to everyday life a little bit quicker.”
For Castillo, it meant it was back to the sport she loved nearly two months faster than expected.
“So I feel like it sped up the recovery,” Castillo said.
This therapy was previously only used in the military to help servicemembers avoid amputation after injury.
Valir Physical Therapy is one of the first in the state to train its therapists on the practice.