The Perceived Tightness Scale Does Not Provide Reliable Estimates of Blood Flow Restriction Pressure

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: The perceived tightness scale is suggested to be an effective method for setting subocclusive pressures with practical blood flow restriction. However, the reliability of this scale is unknown and is important as the reliability will ultimately dictate the usefulness of this method. Objective: To determine the reliability of the perceived tightness scale and investigate if the reliability differs by sex. Design: Within-participant, repeated-measures. Setting: University laboratory. Participants: Twenty-four participants (12 men and 12 women) were tested over 3 days. Main Outcome Measures: Arterial occlusion pressure (AOP) and the pressure at which the participants rated a 7 out of 10 on the perceived tightness scale in the upper arm and upper leg. Results: The percentage coefficient of variation for the measurement was approximately 12%, with no effect of sex in the upper (median δ [95% credible interval]: 0.016 [−0.741, 0.752]) or lower body (median δ [95% credible interval]: 0.266 [−0.396, 0.999]). This would produce an overestimation/underestimation of ∼25% from the mean perceived pressure in the upper body and ∼20% in the lower body. Participants rated pressures above their AOP for the upper body and below for the lower body. At the group level, there were differences in participants’ ratings for their relative AOP (7 out of 10) between day 1 and days 2 and 3 for the lower body, but no differences between sexes for the upper or lower body. Conclusions: The use of the perceived tightness scale does not provide reliable estimates of relative pressures over multiple visits. This method resulted in a wide range of relative AOPs within the same individual across days. This may preclude the use of this scale to set the pressure for those implementing practical blood flow restriction in the laboratory, gym, or clinic.

The authors are with the Department of Health, Exercise Science, and Recreation Management, Kevser Ermin Applied Physiology Laboratory, The University of Mississippi, University, MS.

Loenneke (jploenne@olemiss.edu) is corresponding author.
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