The study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of a blood flow restriction (BFR) training regimen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA); and to compare the effects of 4 weeks of BFR training with low-intensity strength training on muscle strength, muscle endurance, and joint pain in patients with RA.
In this non-blinded pilot randomized controlled trial, 18 women with RA aged 18–65 years performed low-intensity strength training for the lower limbs three times a week for 4 weeks, and were randomized to train with or without occlusion bands. The primary outcomes were registration of the recruitment process, compliance with training sessions, side effects, perceived pain, and a satisfaction survey. The secondary outcomes were changes in muscle strength, muscle endurance, and joint pain.
The findings of this pilot study included a challenging recruitment process, well tolerated training and test protocols, overall good patient satisfaction, no serious side effects, and high compliance. Both groups achieved significant improvements in knee extensor strength from baseline to follow-up, with a change of 11.5 kg [interquartile range (IQR) 9.8;13.0] in the intervention group and 8.4 kg (IQR 5.5;12.4) in the control group, and a significant between-group difference in favour of the intervention group (p = 0.0342).
The feasibility results of this study indicated a challenging recruitment process, general satisfaction with the BFR and exercises, good compliance, and only expected non-serious side effects. BFR training may improve knee extensor strength in women with RA, compared low-intensity strength training without BFR.