Blood Flow Restrictive training is an exercise technique which manipulates the body’s circulatory system. It uses inflatable belts around your arm or leg to slow blood flow to the limb. The systems allow for the use of lighter weights, which reduces the risk of muscle strain or joint strain. The light loads being used also lead to less soreness and faster recovery. BFR has been added to my training in the last few weeks. This week being the third week of working with the BFR system. It has been added to my routine by Dr. Dana McCracken. Working out with the BFR system takes place either just before or just after my chiropractic adjustment from Dr. McCracken. The session he has me work takes twenty minutes. Each exercise requires three sets of as many repetitions as possible, with thirty being the maximum. Our breaks between each set have been timed to thirty seconds. Making the actual workout more intense with the lack of rest. The brief information was taken from the RP Sports website, which contains more information on BFR training. I’m not a doctor and simply will be talking about my experience with this form of training. We have added it to my training sessions with Bernard to seek further cerebral palsy improvement.
Dr. McCracken has been adjusting me for around ten years. When we first began, my shoulder was my main reason for seeking his help. The left shoulder was bothering me to the point of inhibiting the ability to swing a golf club. My concern was cerebral palsy was having such an impact that hobbies like golf would ultimately disappear. The ability to ski had already seemed to disappear, as skiing downhill hadn’t taken place in years. What Dr. McCracken found was surprising. Not only was my left shoulder in rough shape, but my hips were out of alignment by an inch. It was a large discrepancy for my hip and was causing a lot of pain. The sad thing was, the pain had become a normal part of life. My feeling was with cerebral palsy, the pain was simply something I had to deal with. Over the following few months, my left shoulder began the healing process. Eventually leading to swinging the golf club again, pain free. The discrepancy in the hips would take more time to heal. Getting my body to become better aligned was a seemingly slow process. Going from visits once per week, to an attempt at twice per month, then back to once per week. We discovered spotty success with getting the hips to remain level, but no consistency. The chiropractic adjustments from Dr. McCracken now occur twice a week, causing my hips to remain level regularly. Unless, of course, I do something silly. Like, attempt leaping rooftop to rooftop (Christmas is coming, I could get a sleigh, but why bother), crash and burn while skiing, or sleep awkwardly. To name a few…
One of the most challenging aspects to having cerebral palsy has been hand balance. There has always been rigidity in both of my hands. The challenge in using my hands has always seemed to involve my wrists and forearms. As part of the adjustments from Dr. McCracken, he works on my forearms. With a massaging technique, he relaxes the muscles in my forearms. This in turn, makes the hands easier to manage. They aren’t as stiff and rigid. Making activities like typing or writing easier to perform. There have still been other challenges involving my hand and wrists during everyday life. The most prevalent seems to be the ability to balance things in my hands. The most challenging among these objects to balance would be the wine glass or champagne flute. For some reason, those two shapes have caused havoc when attempting to hold onto them. Even carrying a regular glass with any kind of liquid doesn’t normally work without a lid on top. The one exception being a glass with ice included. If liquid becomes more stable inside a glass due to ice being present. Balancing the glass becomes considerably more feasible. The struggle of balancing a glass has always been difficult to handle. The feelings can lead to emotions of embarrassment and isolation. This handling of a glass situation has often seemed on the mind of Dr. McCracken. He appears to ponder over the ways it might be overcome. One way to take it on could be increasing strength and stability.
There are many things I don’t know about the human body. One of them has been how to improve the balance of my arms. Dr. McCracken however, does have an understanding of how we might help with the balance. From the little I have understood from conversation, the balance of my hand seems to begin in the shoulder. The balance also requires strength in the triceps, along with stability in the wrists. These have all been areas we seem to be targeting with the BFR training. It was after a couple weeks of discussion, we began with the exercises. Our first round consisted of three different movement. Dr. McCracken wrapped the belts around each of my upper arms. Inflating them to a conservative number, not yet knowing how much could be handled. His approach allowed me to feel comfortable with the routine. We began with a bent over reverse fly. Performing thirty in a row or until failure was reached. We moved on to a bent over kick back with the arms. Moving the arms backward as if using poles while skiing. The movement places pressure on the triceps, as the arm extends back. Each of the first two movements also places pressure on my legs, as I bent to support my body. The upper body tilted forward from the waist into an athletic position. My legs started chattering back and forth with instability, while Dr. McCracken reminded me to keep my knees pointing outward. Cerebral palsy has always given them the propensity to cave inward. The two beginning exercises causing me to work my entire body. Training the legs to hold position without caving in as they seem to naturally prefer. Then, it was on to working the forearms and wrists.
After the shoulders and triceps had been worked for three sets a piece, we moved to the final exercise. The last movement Dr. McCracken had me work on was wrist extensions. For this exercise, my wrists were placed flat on a bench. My hands were extended off the side of the bench holding dumbbells. The movement involved extending my hands up and back toward my shoulders. While keeping the forearms firmly resting on the bench. It caused a rolling motion in the wrists. Rolling upward, then relaxing back downward toward the floor. The exercise was the most challenging for me to execute. Especially working with the left wrist, which often feels like one of the weakest points on my body. Even during our first session with BFR, when the compression and weight was least, my left wrist had trouble. The left wrist was the first exercise to reach failure before completing the thirty-repetition range. The wrist rolling movement has often felt important each time. Strengthening those muscles help with so many things. From typing and writing to balancing dishes and opening doors. The more stability in my left hand, the easier life becomes. There have been times lately where my left hand has been used to perform a task, where in the past, I would have used the right hand to make up for the instability of my left. The impact of BFR training has already been felt.
BFR training was something that began with some hesitation. Dr. McCracken had me begin at a low level to become familiar with the belt. They provided a different sensation with exercise. Getting used to the compression around my arms took time. We started the process with many movements I was familiar with. All seemed to be focused around helping the strength and stability of my arm movements. As we have progressed into the fourth week, Dr. McCracken continues to add challenge. He has increased the compression level with each session. The elevation causing me to fatigue more quickly. The amount of repetitions performed when we began can no longer be completed. The results from this form of training have also been good. BFR has provided added strength and stability in me daily activities. The feeling of having more energy has been present. The other workout sessions with Bernard have quickened. As we can get through added exercise during our time. The functionality of my shoulder has improved in the short amount of time. Causing my golf swing to feel much more sturdy and strong. We are always looking for methods of cerebral palsy improvement and have found another. Dr. McCracken continues to make the BFR training more complex by adding elements. As I continue taking note of the improvements to daily life. Which have been both large and small, adding to the confidence that growth continues.