MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis clinic is using an unusual method of therapy to help patients recover from injuries and surgeries faster.

It’s called blood flow restriction training, or Kaatsu.

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The treatment started in the 1960s in Japan. And is now seeing a resurgence in physical therapy sessions across the United States. In HealthWatch, we are taking a look at how it’s helping a Minneapolis woman recover from knee surgery.

(credit: CBS)

Photos remind 32-year-old Amy Gunty of what happened the last time she went rock climbing. She tore a couple of ligaments in her left knee.

“I had a lot of pain. I had a lot of pain behind my knee cap and some instability so it would kind of slip out of place a little bit here and there,” Amy said.

After the incisions from her surgery healed, Amy started working out with physical therapist John Corbo at Fairview’s Institute for Athletic Medicine in Minneapolis.

The goal is to rebuild muscle strength and balance. The method is non-traditional.

“I thought it sounded crazy. I did some of my own research, read some studies and stuff. It all looked really good. Really promising results,” Amy said.

The cuff squeezing Amy’s left thigh is restricting blood flow in her leg. This causes her body to respond as if she were doing much more aggressive resistance training, or lifting heavier weights.

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It increases the release of hormones that boost muscle growth and strength.

“We are actually restricting blood flow to the working muscle, not fully but a certain percentage, but it occludes all the blood flow back to the heart. It is safe and actually there is a lot of research to support it,” said John, the physical therapist.

He demonstrated how the cuff is tightened near the area that’s healing, and then attached to a device that monitors the blood flow restriction.

Physical therapists closely examine a patient’s medical history before attempting the process, and say there are people who definitely should not do this.

“People who have blood clots, who have a history of cancer, particularly a lumpectomy, any person who has heart disease, circulation issues, family history of clotting,” John said.

After eight weeks of using this technique, Amy says she’s getting stronger.

“I think that it is great. It sounds a little weird to be cutting off your blood flow while you are working out, but I am getting results,” Amy said.

The Institute for Athletic Medicine only offers blood flow restriction training at its Minneapolis clinic. But it plans to expand the service to its other locations across the Twin Cities this year.

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