We get questions all the time about compression versus contrast therapy. Which is better?
Then there are the “yes, but” questions. “Yes, but what about if I’m injured?” “Yes, but what about if I need to focus on general inflammation?” “Yes, but I hate ice baths.”
We’re breaking down both types and looking at the pros and cons of each.
Hot & Cold Therapy (Contrast Therapy)
Contrast therapy uses the alternation between vasoconstriction and vasodilation (expanding and contracting of blood vessels) to control inflammation and reduce swelling.
There are several ways to do hot and cold therapy at home. Although it’s wise to check with your physician first – particularly if you have heart problems.
To do hot and cold therapy at home, some people switch back and forth between hot water and cold water in the shower. Use caution and double-check the heat setting on your hot water heaters to avoid burning yourself. The second way for focus areas like your feet or hands is to fill two buckets – one with hot and one with cold water. Then alternate between them.
In our cold winters, once the snow piles up on the ground, you’ll see people swear that jumping into a snowbank after sitting in a hot tub for several minutes then jumping back in works just as well as traditional hot and cold therapy to reduce swelling and inflammation.
The other significant benefit of contrast therapy is it has the same constriction and dilating effects on your lymphatic vessels – which don’t have their own pump. This has been shown to move the fluid, further reducing inflammation and improving overall health.
Normatec Boots (Compression Therapy)
Normatec boots are full foot and leg sleeves that put pressure along your legs in a pattern that mimics the myofascial release of a foam roller. However, the pressure is more thorough and can go deeper than foam rolling can.
Many studies have been done on massage and myofascial release. They conclude it helps promote blood flow pushing out the white blood cells that cause inflammation around the tiny tears in your muscles.
It can also help increase your range of motion.
You can use tech devices like the Normatec boots. You can also wear compression socks, leggings, shirts, or sleeves with the same effect. All you need to do is wear them for a while, take them off, then wear them again.
Which Is Better For You?
This will depend on you.
Normatec boots are portable. There’s no safety hazard to them. They’re a passive system that you set from the accompanying device or your mobile phone. It doubles down on benefits to give you a chance to rest and relax while it does the work for you. Most of us could use a little time to slow, which is an added bonus.
Contrast therapy requires more equipment, making it harder to do if you’re away from home – for example when you’re doing an obstacle race out of town. However, because it also promotes fluid movement through the lymphatic system, this can provide extra bonuses for people with chronic low-grade inflammation.
If you want to try out the Normatec compression boots here in Mississauga, stop by our recovery lounge. We’re offering a 7-day free pass, and you can’t beat free for things like sore muscle recovery.