A new way to therapy at FVH

Friday, May 18, 2018
Brynlie Daale, an eighth grader at Le Mars Community Middle School, uses blood flow restriction therapy under the direction of physical therapist Troy Henrich. The tourniquet-style cuff restricts the blood flow to the muscle being used to reach maximum exhaustion in order to build atrophied muscle quickly. Henrich chose the therapy for Daale after an ACL tear in January.

LE MARS — Recovering from surgery is never a small feat, especially when it involves joint injury repair. Physical therapists at Floyd Valley Healthcare seek to increase muscle rehabilitation post-surgery with Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) therapy.

The therapy, introduced by Johnny Owens, MPT, was originally geared toward helping wounded veterans recover from battle injuries that inhibited their strength-bearing capabilities. Not too long after, the sports community took notice.

Houston Texans athletes brought BFR into the limelight after impressive recoveries from ACL repairs, said Jerry DeWit, FVH physical therapist.

After learning of the therapy through FVH’s parent company, Avera, back in February, DeWit was ready to jump on board.

“We want to try and make sure that if it had the potential for quality rehab, we were on the front lines,” he said of working with the hospital to bring the technique to Le Mars.

Due to the interest in the treatment, trainings through Avera and Sanford filled up before DeWit could attend. So he flew to Denver. He had patients that were desperate for something new in their rehabilitation regimen.

“This came at a good time,” the physical therapist said.

One of DeWit’s patients, a farmer, hadn’t seen much improvement in mobility since his rotator cuff surgery five months ago.

“He’s the most faithful exerciser I’ve seen, certainly more than I would be,” he said. “He wants that arm back, so we had to find something.”

Strength growth comes when a muscle is properly exercised, but patients recovering from surgery often hit a wall because they are unable to exhaust the muscle safely within their restrictions.

“They can only lift 20 to 30 percent of their max weight,” he said. “So how do you get a good taxation to muscle to build atrophied muscle when they have limited weight they can use? Well that’s where the blood flow restriction comes in.”

BFR has proven to work well for ACL injuries, which run downstream from the tourniquet, but for the farmer who needs to recover his rotator cuff, DeWit had to try a different method.

“Even though it’s here,” he said, pointing to the area above his bicep, “we’re going to try to affect the muscles in the shoulder.”

DeWit has not only put the cuff on the patient’s arm, but has also used it on the leg to get larger muscle groups involved.

“It’s a systemic effect to shut off blood flow because there’s a build-up of lactase in the body,” he said. “With the build-up of lactase, you’re going to get more growth hormones coursing through your system and you’re going to get muscle synthesis, an increase of muscle growth throughout the system.”

They’ve been diligent with the therapy since FVH received the cuff.

“We’ve been working twice a week for two weeks and he’s better than he was but he’s certainly not throwing that arm or lifting with that arm,” DeWit said. “He’s clearly stronger, but he’s nowhere near where he wants to be.”

And with the incredible testimonials from patients nationwide, DeWit and the physical therapy team are excited to bring this innovation to Le Mars and help patients, “get back to it,” as DeWit said.

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