BFR OCCLUSION TRAINING KAATSU

Kaatsu Cycle 2.0
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  • What is the difference between BFR Occlusion Training and KAATSU as a modality?
  • What is the difference between BFR Occlusion Training and KAATSU equipment?
  • What is the difference between BFR Occlusion Training and BFM?
  • Allegation: Thin bands like KAATSU cause nerve damage and are dangerous.

In the emerging world of blood flow restriction (BFR), there are many hard questions, false allegations and mistruths disseminated by BFR Occlusion Training manufacturers, sellers and users, especially vis-a-vis KAATSU.

Each of these questions, allegations and mistruths are addressed below:

Question: What is the difference between BFR Occlusion Training and KAATSU as a modality?

Answer: BFR occlusion training is based on the principle of occluding – or cutting off temporarily – the arterial flow from the torso to the limbs. That is, arterial blood flow is literally restricted or occluded when applying a tourniquet or occlusion bands in blood flow restriction equipment.

Most often, tourniquets are used that are the same or very similar to blood pressure cuffs that are used in the medical world. These tourniquets and blood pressure cuffs – used to take blood pressure readings – are specifically designed and engineered to occlude arterial flow. Due to their width, structure and inelastic material, the tourniquets are very effective at cutting off arterial flow.

That is, if you keep the tourniquets on long enough, the arterial blood flow is at first limited and then cut off. The palms of our hands go white and there is no pulse felt at your wrist. These tourniquets function exactly as they are designed and engineered and promoted.

In contrast, the KAATSU Air Bands are specifically designed and engineered to allow arterial blood flow to continue and to reduce the venous blood flow back from the limb to the torso. These pneumatic bands are flexible, much more narrow and are elastic that enable the arterial flow to continue and the venous flow to be slightly and safely reduced. 

The KAATSU Air Bands were tested and used for 10 years at the University of Tokyo Hospital under the supervision and research conducted by cardiologists Dr. Nakajima and Dr. Morita and other exercise physiologists in collaboration with KAATSU inventor Dr. Sato. Many of the patients who used the KAATSU Air Bands were individuals undergoing cardiac rehabilitation.  

These physicians in Japan coined the description BFM or blood flow moderation to describe KAATSU long before the current BFR equipment was conceived or marketed in the United States and Europe.

Question: What is the difference between BFR Occlusion Training and KAATSU equipment?

Answer: BFR Occlusion training focuses on arterial flow because its core equipment is a tourniquet that is specifically designed and engineered to occlude arterial flow. BFM or KAATSU focuses on venous flow because its core equipment are pneumatic bands that are specifically designed and engineered to moderate venous flow and not occlude arterial flow. 

Not only are the tourniquet materials, size (width), and structure are significantly different than KAATSU pneumatic bands, but also BFR and BFM protocols are dramatically different. 

Question: What is the difference between BFR Occlusion Training and BFM?

Answer: While the definitions of Blood Flow Restriction versus Blood Flow Moderation may first appear nuanced, vague and unimportant, the actual protocols and applications are significantly different and important.

In concept and in application, BFR starts at the point of full occlusion and then held at a specific percentage (between 50-80%). Arterial flow is first occluded and then the limb occlusion pressure is reduced so allow a certain amount of natural arterial flow.  

In contrast, BFM or KAATSU starts at a gentle pressure that is gradually increased in duration increments of 20 seconds and only very slight pressure increase so capillary, vein and artery distention and pressure are safely managed. 

In concept and in application, BFM or KAATSU starts with normal arterial flow. The arterial flow continues as the venous flow is gradually and slowly reduced. This results in safe blood pooling in the limbs as the vascular walls gradually and slowly expand to accommodate the increased amount of blood in the limbs.

For this reason, KAATSU equipment is often used with the Masimo MightySat Finger Pulse Oximeter. The data from the Bluetooth-enabled pulse oximeter ranges from Pulse Rate to Perfusion Index and is stored on the KAATSU Performance cloud database. Users can measure, store and analyze a variety of their own circulatory information while doing KAATSU.  

Allegation: Thin bands like KAATSU cause nerve damage and are dangerous.

Truth: While this rumor has long been promoted by BFR advocates about KAATSU, there has been no documented cases of nerve damage occurring after following standard KAATSU protocols after over 20 years in the marketplace. KAATSU users as old as 104 years have safely and repeatedly used KAATSU over the past few decades (see here). This allegation and false rumor may be the result from some users feel a tingling in their fingertips when using KAATSU equipment. This tingling is caused by a few different phenomena:

1. An engorgement of blood in the small capillaries of the fingertips leads to a tingling sensation. If the sensation is uncomfortable, the easiest action is to either remove the KAATSU Air Bands. However, the best recommendation is to reduce the KAATSU Optimal SKU pressure and the tingling goes away.

2. A user is not well-hydrated before or during KAATSU. Standard KAATSU protocols always calls for all KAATSU users to be very well-hydrated before and during KAATSU use.

3. A user applies a too-high Base SKU pressure and places the KAATSU Air Bands too high up on their arms when first starting KAATSU. It is important to apply the KAATSU Air Bands snugly – but not overly tight. The standard recommendation is to apply the bands tight enough so no more than one finger can be placed under the bands between the skin and the band. If a finger cannot be placed under the bands, it is likely the bands are on too tightly. Also, the bands should be placed above the biceps muscle, but below the deltoids.