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Cryotherapy or Laser Therapy: Which is Better for Sore Muscles?

Athletic injury on ankle

Current treatments for muscle injuries include two promising therapies: low-level laser therapy and cryotherapy. But what are these therapies and how do they help relieve pain associated with muscle injury? And which is better for repairing sore muscle tissue?

Typical sports medicine injuries, or injuries to the musculoskeletal system, are the result of strains, contusions, ischemia (poor or inadequate supply of blood to muscle tissue), and nerve damage. These injuries can be contributed to a singular traumatic event or may result from damage due to degenerative processes.

What is cryotherapy and how is it used on sore muscles?

Cryo treatment, or ice pack therapy, helps relieve muscle soreness by lowering the temperature of the blood circulating through the tissue; it can further numb the pain of sore muscles by cooling down the nerves. The effects are usually temporary and may cause numbness or tingling, and redness or irritation of the skin where the ice pack was applied.

Acute muscle injuries generally create a pro-inflammatory response; current therapies that are most commonly used to treat these injuries include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin or ibuprofen, and cryogenic therapy. Cryotherapy treatment describes the commonplace protocol of applying localized, freezing temperatures for the improvement of tissue health—in other words, icing an injury to help in muscle recovery.

What is laser therapy and how is it used on sore muscles?

A new approach to relieving muscle pain is the use of low-level laser therapy. Laser therapy has only recently been used in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, but is proving more effective than NSAIDs or cryotherapy. Laser therapy for muscle recovery can help by stimulating the peripheral nerves and improving regional circulation.

In clinical studies, the use of low-level laser therapy on sports medicine patients has not only shown a significant reduction of symptoms post-workout, but when applied before and during gameplay, low-level laser can help the overall health and recovery of muscle tissue1,2.

How is laser therapy applied to sports medicine today?

Current studies on laser therapy and sports medicine have focused on the GameDay Laser, a treatment used for everyday athletes through preparation, performance, and recovery. The GameDay Laser has helped competitive athletes prepare for a workout by pre-emptively reducing muscle fatigue; enhancing performance by increasing microcirculation; and aiding in the recovery of sore or strained muscles.

Two brand new lasers have been developed specifically to treat muscle injuries in a sports medicine capacity, and are now available on the market: the MR5 ACTIV PRO and MR5 ACTIV PRO with LaserStim. As the successors to the MR4 ACTIV, the MR5 series offers more power and features for athletic trainers, clinicians and athletes on the go.  The portability of these two cordless lasers allows ATs to safely deliver game-side treatments, offering powerful pain relief while minimizing muscle damage for the best results. And with the ACTIV PRO LaserStim, Multi Radiance’s flagship LaserStim technology is available for the first time in a portable model, allowing ATs to bring the superior targeting and automatic dose technology anywhere – meaning more accurate treatments for faster pain relief and recovery.

Read more about how LaserStim technology benefits athletic trainers and patients.

To learn how the technology in the MR5 ACTIV PRO was optimized for more power and the same safety rating, download the ACTIV PRO whitepaper now.

Download the ACTIV PRO White Paper


  1. Vanin, A.A., Miranda, E.F., Machado, C.S.M. et al. Lasers Med Sci (2016) 31: 1555.
  2. Miranda, E.F., Tomazoni, S.S., de Paiva, P.R.V. et al. Lasers Med Sci (2018) 33: 719.
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