Journal of Trainology



January 2014; Vol. 3, No. 1: Pages 1-5

COPD and muscle loss: is blood flow restriction a potential treatment?

Robert S. Thiebaud, Jeremy P. Loenneke, Takashi Abe


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and results in a significant reduction in lung function and exercise tolerance. In addition, there is a significant decline in muscle mass and strength in these individuals. Unfortunately, other comorbidities associated with this disease such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and obesity may prevent them from exercising at sufficiently high loads to promote muscle hypertrophy. Also, acute exacerbations may prevent them from performing exercise at all. Objectives: This brief review will discuss the potential benefits of using blood flow restriction (BFR) when combined with walking, resistance training and electrical stimulation in COPD patients and possible safety concerns. Design and Methods: Non-systematic review. Results: BFR improves muscle size and function when combined with low-intensity walking or low-load resistance training. This treatment appears to be safe and has been used by many different populations including individuals with ischaemic heart disease. For COPD patients who are contraindicated to perform exercise, a potential treatment may be to combine neuromuscular electrical stimulation with BFR. Conclusions: BFR appears to be a potential treatment for increasing strength and muscle mass for COPD patients when high-intensity exercise may not be tolerated. In addition, BFR may provide benefits for COPD patients who are unable to exercise by combining it with neuromuscular electrical stimulation.

Received January 7, 2014; accepted January 28, 2014