Cold vs Heat vs Active Compression: What's the Best Therapy to Relieve Leg Pain?

A plethora of causes from muscle overuse to illnesses such as arthritis can cause muscle pain in the legs. The go-to treatment for muscle pain and the other related symptoms including swelling in the limbs and muscle stiffness, is applying ice packs or heating pads to the affected area. Today, a  modern technique called active compression therapy is widely used to treat such conditions. Each of these techniques has unique benefits and uses. Let’s find out how each treatment works and what’s the most effective of them. 

Cold and heat therapy  

Hot and cold therapy is a traditional practice used to treat muscle injuries. They both are simple yet extremely effective. The trickier part is to understand what type of injury requires heat and what requires cold. Sometimes the treatment may include both. As a general rule of thumb, ice is applied to the sore muscles when they show inflammation or swelling; heat when they  are stiff and in pain.  

Heat therapy 

Heat promotes blood circulation by dilating blood vessels. The better the blood circulation in the area, the faster the recovery. In addition, it reduces the pain and increases muscle flexibility. Applying heat to the injured area a couple of times a day helps with healing the damaged muscle fibers faster.  

There are two types of heat therapy; dry heat and moist heat. Dry heat or conducted heat therapy is carried out by applying heating pads to the area. Moist heat or convection heat therapy is derived by heat sources such as steamed towels, moist heating packs, or hot baths. Moist heat is considered slightly more effective than dry heat.  

Professional medical equipment such as ultrasound heat generators also follows the same concept.   

Cold therapy 

Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is formulated by applying cold sources to the affected area. Low temperature reduces the blood flow in the body. As a result, swelling and inflammation subside. This method works especially better around joints and tendons. It also relieves the pain by decreasing nerve activity in the area.  

There are a number of ways you can apply a cold pack to the affected area. If the injury is localized to a small section, you can use ice packs or frozen gel packs. Coolant sprays are another option. Ice baths are recommended for a full-body treatment.  

There are derivative methods of cold therapy. One is cryo-stretching, where a cold pack is applied to avoid muscle spasms during stretching exercises. Cryokinetics is a treatment for muscle sprains combining exercises with cold therapy. 

How to use cold and heat therapy 

For mild muscle pains apply the heat or cold pack for 15-20 minutes and repeat every 2-3 hours until the pain subsides.  

Active Compression 

Active compression is a special massage technique that helps to optimize blood circulation. Massage therapists who carry out the process gently apply pressure on the affected area using their fingers and palms, as they massage the limb in circular movements following the directions of blood. This method is helpful for those who suffer from muscle soreness, swelling, and blood pooling in the peripheral parts of the body. 

This treatment is not only for blood circulatory disorders. You can effectively alleviate the muscle pain after a strenuous leg workout with a simple active compression massage. Learn more about active compression here. 

 There are a few convenient ways you can reap the benefits of active compression rather than going to a therapist every time your muscles ache. The best available method is by using a muscle recovery tool. You can use these tools to massage your muscles without the support of a therapist.  

SPRYNG is the most advanced and convenient active compression tool for legs. Unlike most other muscle massager tools, SPRYNG is wireless and therefore it is very convenient to use. It’s preloaded with 3 different compression patterns guaranteeing quick recovery for sore legs.  

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