What causes it? What can you do if you get it?
CoolSculpting is a process of killing fat cells by using cold temperatures. During the treatment each area in or under the applicator is reduced to the temperature needed to freeze the fat within the fat cells. Those cells that have fat within them frozen will die, within 3 days after the procedure. Your body then processes out the fat and the fat cells and you are thinner than you were! Sounds easy right? It is.
No surgery, no pain from incisions or liposuction cannulas sucking the fat out of you. No downtime? Well, that’s mostly right. You can get back to your life right away. There are no restrictions to what you can do after CoolSculpting treatment. Most people have mild discomfort in the areas treated that lasts for 5 to 7 days. Most people, but not all.
If you are reading this considering getting CoolSculpting the good news is less than 20% of the people treated get any significant pain after CoolSculpting. So your chances are good that you’ll be in the majority and sail through your recovery with some mild swelling, aching or soreness and nothing more.
If you are reading this looking for help because you are having pain after a CoolSculpting treatment, the good news is that it will pass. The bad news is that you have it and until it goes away, being in the minority of people isn’t much fun.
Whether you are considering CoolSculpting and want to know about the pain or you have CoolSculpting pain and are searching for why you have it, what is causing it and when it will go away or what you can do to help it go away faster, keep reading the answers are here.
There is nothing any CoolSculpting provider or the researchers have identified that make one person more apt to get the more severe pain after CoolSculpting than another person. If we knew, we would only treat people that wouldn’t get the pain or at least warn the people that would get it so they are prepared. This is temporary, that much any provider or person that had it will tell you. It will go away, with or without any treatment.
What we do know is the larger applicators including the CoolSmooth and CoolMax tend to have a higher percentage of people that get this level of pain. Those applicators treat more fat, which would explain why we see more pain from using those vs. the others. That should not determine your treatment plan though. Using the medium size applicators also can cause the same level of pain, it just happens less often. If you are the one dealing with this, at least when it’s over you want a great result and only a perfect treatment plan with the correct applicator will give you that.
What does CoolSculpting pain feel like?
It starts typically 3 days after your CoolSculpting procedure. We call it “late onset pain” because it starts 3 days after the procedure when you should be feeling better not worse. You are going along just fine, numb on the skin, sore, maybe even a bit achy feeling, then it gets worse literally overnight. It might start as itching or burning and then progress to a feeling of cramping, tearing, stabbing, shooting pain or buzzing under the skin. If this sounds familiar, hopefully reading this is giving you some comfort to know you are not the only one. There is nothing BAD going on that you will never recover from. This is not a severe complication and we PROMISE it will go away, eventually.
How long will CoolSculpting pain last?
Typically, the course of this pain resolves itself within 14 days. The milder versions tend to last only 3 to 5 days with the more severe version lasting a couple of weeks.
Rare cases are reported to last longer and require medical intervention just to help you get back to a normal life while the process runs its course. There are solutions that can help, so keep reading.
What causes CoolSculpting Pain?
Fat cells die as a result of CoolSculpting treatment. That is why the procedure is so great, those dead fat cells don’t come back so your results last!
So what happens next? Fat itself contains toxins. Those toxins have been stored in the fat within the cells and are now being released into the space between your cells. The fat cells are also breaking apart into pieces of cellular debris that will be eliminated from your body over the next several months. Your lymphatic system is responsible for transporting all this “waste” to your liver and out of your body. It’s just a process that takes time.
Dying fat cells cause inflammation, its part of the process that eliminates the cells and it’s natural. Your body has cells that die every day, otherwise we would be old before we started Kindergarten. The process of cleaning up dead cells is one your body does every day and is very good at. So don’t worry, your body can handle it.
When all those fat cells die at one time and the stored fat begins to break down along with the cells, the resulting “waste” material can be like a toxic dump! That will all be cleared by your body over the next several months. Part of what happens during the CoolSculpting procedure is the nerves in the area that was “frozen” were stunned from the cold temperatures. They aren’t damaged and there is no permanence to the skin numbness you are feeling right after the procedure. Within a couple of weeks the feeling is completely back to normal again.
When those nerves start to “wake back up” again, they are sitting in the middle of that toxic waste and can become irritated. The feelings you feel are not what you should be feeling, burning, itching, stabbing pain is not what is happening to your body, but it’s what it feels. Those nerves are irritated and letting you know it.
What can you do to treat CoolSculpting pain?
First the MOST important thing is to remain calm, this will go away and there is nothing wrong and your procedure hasn’t been done wrong just because you are experiencing this pain.
Next, WATER, lots and lots of water. Your body’s lymphatic system is a tiny system of tubes that transport material to and from the cells. Being hydrated helps your body keep this tiny transportation channel moving. Make sure you are drinking at least a liter of water every day. You should start this BEFORE your CoolSculpting treatment and continue until at least 2 weeks after. After that, drinking lots of water is good for your body so hopefully you’ve created a new healthy habit to go along with that new body you’ll have soon.
Movement. Keep your body moving. Stretching exercises and activity keep those toxins pumping through and out of your body. We’ve seen the most severe pain in the people that have the most sedentary lifestyle. That means people with desk jobs that sit most of the day. If that is you, get up every hour, stretch go for a walk around the office or the building. Every evening get out and do some light exercise. All that movement helps your body process and push any “waste” out before it builds up and causes problems for you. If you have pain, push your way through it and do a few crunches or leg lifts or what ever move you can do for the body part you treated. You will feel better, even if just for a little while. Just keep doing it until the pain is gone.
Ice, yes believe it or not the one thing that got you into this is the one thing that will get you out of it. Cold compresses, ice packs or Cold Wraps like Arctic Ease have given the most relief. We like the Arctic Ease wrap because it can be worn under your clothes or to bed at night and reused after it’s rehydrated. It can be found at many drug stores so it’s easy enough to find and get any day of the week.
Baths, we use a detox bath solution and start everyone on it the night of their CoolSculpting procedure. Detox baths will help pull those toxins out of your body through your skin. This helps to process everything out a bit faster. We start with hot baths for the detox process but if the pain has started you may find this more uncomfortable than the pain. If so try a cool swimming pool or cool bath.
Over the Counter Remedies that HELP CoolSculpting pain
Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory medication and can be purchased in any store. Acetominephen is another over the counter pain reliever. These two medications, Motrin and Tylenol can be taken to help relieve some of the discomfort but don’t expect instant results like you would get treating a headache. Keep taking these medications and they will help after a few days.
Cortisone Cream 1% This is maximum strength Cortisone and is available over the counter without a prescription. Cortisone is a steroid and will penetrate through the skin. It’s primary purpose is to relieve itching but it can also help with the tingling or buzzing feeling coming from those irritated nerves. Put it on and rub it in well. Give it at least 10 minutes to see if you get relief.
Prescription Options that Help CoolSculpting pain
These options are only available by prescription. Since CoolSculpting is a medical procedure, any CoolSculpting center has a medical director that is a M.D. that can see you and if he/she feels the treatment is necessary prescribe them for you.
Lidoderm patches, are patches used to treat pain including but not limited to back pain. They contain a numbing medication similar to what you get at the dentists office before a filling. These patches are put on the area that is having pain and the medication penetrates the skin and causes it to go numb. What better relief of pain than numb! The downside is that they are not that big and must be used sparingly so you don’t get too much of the medication in your system. They will also not be covered by your medical insurance since you had an elective procedure. They cost about $100 for a few patches. So plan to use these sparingly to help with the worst moments.
Neurontin, Lyrica or Gabapentin are non-narcotic pain medications used specifically for nerve pain. These have proven to be effective and are used in the most severe cases of pain. The downside is they take several days to take full effect and side effects include being sleepy. Which if you haven’t been sleeping well from the pain at night, this might be a great side effect to have.
Narcotic pain medications are of little benefit and are rarely prescribed for CoolSculpting late onset pain. Talk to your doctor about what he/she feels will be the best choice to help you.
Over the counter and preventative solutions are the best one’s to start with. However, don’t try to suffer through this alone. Your CoolSculpting treatment center is your partner to help you through this. Call them (or us if you were treated at Sculpted Contours) and tell us about what you are experiencing and what you’ve tried. We’ll suggest as many options as we know have helped other patients of ours and get you an appointment with our medical director to get you the relief you need.
The information contained on this page includes suggestions to help you manage and understand the options you have for treating CoolSculpting pain. This information is not and should not be considered medical advice or be used in place of a diagnosis and proper care by a physician. No medications should be taken without the instructions of a physician or other licensed healthcare provider in your state. If you are experiencing the symptoms described on this page after your CoolSculpting treatment, contact your CoolSculpting provider and ask for an appointment with a physician or other healthcare provider that can diagnose and treat your condition.