CoolSculpting is arguably the most well-known nonsurgical fat-loss procedure thanks to its lofty promise to freeze away that pinchable fat located just beneath your skin.
Most people who opt for CoolSculpting or similar fat treatments do so because they want to avoid the discomfort associated with liposuction and other invasive methods. While this is undoubtedly a legitimate reason to go ahead with a noninvasive procedure, keep in mind that you are unlikely to have a pain-free experience with these alternative methods.
In general, we absolutely endorse CoolSculpting’s efficacy, so this guide is merely intended to help prepare you for the discomfort and possible pain you will feel during and after the procedure.
Will I Feel Pain During the Procedure?
CoolSculpting does not take much time at all, with quicker variations ending in as little as 35 minutes. During the early minutes of the procedure, when the applicator is first placed on your skin, you will feel a tugging or sucking feeling on the treated region.
After roughly one minute, the intense cold will start to kick in, and your body will feel some needling or even minor stinging sensations. This step should mark the height of the pain for most patients because you will become numb and lose feeling in the treated around this time. Before the numbness fully kicks in, some patients are likely to feel a good amount of discomfort, ranging from the aforementioned needle-like sensation to some considerable aching or cramping.
Some people are naturally predisposed to feeling more pain than others, but it is impossible to determine who these patients are before receiving CoolSculpting. In general, a safe rule to go by is, the larger the applicator (meaning, the larger the treated area), the more likely the occurrence of moderate pain.
Once the extreme cold from the applicator has been exerted for enough time, your body will go numb, and the rest of the procedure should be relatively seamless. You are unlikely to feel when the machine is removed, but some people who do not go totally numb report minor stinging during this process as well.
Patients often receive a massage after the treatment to help break up any remaining fat cells that froze but did not die completely. The massage will also be pretty painful, as it has to be vigorous enough to cause the cells to burst. Therefore, we caution you to brace for discomfort during the massage step as well, though it will is not too painful for most people. Some even state the massage feels more like tickling than anything else.
How to Minimize Discomfort During the Procedure
To minimize discomfort as you receive CoolSculpting, we first recommend asking your doctor or practitioner for advice specifically designed for your body. Some recommendations may include taking over-the-counter pain medication or anti-inflammatory pills like Tylenol or Ibuprofen since you won’t be administered any anesthesia. You should always consult with your doctor before taking these commonplace pills, however, as you never know how they can complicate the procedure.
Another method to reduce pain in advance of CoolSculpting involves receiving a pre-emptive massage on the treated area. Doing so can increase the procedure’s efficiency and limit side effects afterward.
After the Procedure
You won’t feel too much pain in the days immediately following the CoolSculpting procedure aside from numbness and minor aching. After this period, the real afterpain will kick in for some people, but again, there is no way to tell who is more disposed to suffer from such discomfort.
The aching you feel after CoolSculpting is due to the release of toxins from fat cells broken apart during the procedure. Although the lymphatic system naturally eliminates this waste, it can cause pain due to the nerves in treated areas feeling stunned from the cold temperatures.
Some non-medicated ways to address pain after CoolSculpting include deep breathing exercises, meditation, gentle exercise, guided imagery, warm compresses, and massage therapy. Most people find the procedure’s aftereffects will wear off after two weeks, but in some cases, it can last longer. It should also be noted that, on an extremely rare basis (roughly 1 in 138 patients), some individuals will experience a condition called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, which causes a hardened area of localized fat developing after cryolipolysis.