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Body Sculpting, CoolSculpting, Body Contouring, Body, Nonsurgical

Does CoolSculpting Hurt: The Honest Truth

You’ve probably heard about CoolSculpting, the miracle fat busting treatment that literally freezes fat off your body. If you need a quick primer on what CoolSculpting is, click here

You’ve heard some doctors say that it’s painless. You’ve probably heard the competition tell you that it hurts.

So you’re probably wondering: Does CoolSculpting hurt or doesn't it?

If you’re naturally skeptical like the rest of us, you’re also probably wondering: Does CoolSculpting really work? Is CoolSculpting really the best fat busting treatment?

Does CoolSculpting Work?

In a nutshell, yes, CoolSculpting really works. You can find out how CoolSculpting works here.

CoolSculpting vs. SculpSure and Other Fat Busting Treatments

CoolSculpting is the gold standard, FDA approved treatment for nonsurgical fat reduction with over 3 million treatments performed. Learn more about how CoolSculpting stacks up against alternative treatments such as Sculpsure here.

The Honest Truth About CoolSculpting & Pain ?

I’ll answer this question from two perspectives:

My Personal Experience As A Patient

As a provider, I like to try as many nonsurgical cosmetic treatments as I can before I offer it to my patients so that I know firsthand what the treatment feels like and whether it works.

So, shortly after CoolSculpting gained FDA approval in 2010, I underwent a first generation CoolSculpting treatment of my love handles using the CoolCore+ applicator.

Male patient being treated by CoolSculpting on his flanks

During The Treatment

We started with my right love handle. A protective gel pad was first applied. The gel pad was surprisingly cool and wet. Then the treatment applicator was placed over my love handle. Once the applicator was positioned over my love handle, a vacuum was turned on, drawing my skin and fat into the device. The vacuum felt like a gentle suction cup applied to the skin. The CoolSculpting machine was then activated, turning on the cooling process that freezes the fat. For the first 10 minutes, there was a mild pinching sensation. Then the area went completely numb like having an ice pack on. After the freezing was finished, the vacuum and the applicator were released, leaving behind a “butter stick” of frozen fat. The butter stick was massaged for a few minutes, which felt slightly ticklish. This was in the day before we had two machines for DualSculpting, so the process was repeated on the other left side.

For me, the treatment felt a little weird, but it didn’t hurt at all. It mostly felt like applying an ice pack.

After The Treatment

I didn't experience any pain after the procedure, and I was able to resume full activities including performing surgery and working out immediately. My love handles felt slightly numb for about the three weeks, but that’s about it.

Two More Quick Questions

My Personal Experience as a CoolSculpting Provider

We’ve treated thousands of patients at our San Francisco CoolSculpting center and are constantly improving our treatments by staying up-to-date with the latest and greatest additions to CoolSculpting. 

We survey all of our patients after treatment, and here’s what I can tell you about pain and CoolSculpting based on the experience of our large group of patients:

CoolSculpting 1.0 Applicators (before 2016):

The original CoolSculpting treatment protocol used the CoolCore, CoolCurve, CoolFit, and CoolMax applicators. Some practices still use these applicators, but we replaced using these applicators for the newer, faster, and more effective CoolAdvantage applicators in 2016.

During The Treatment

77% of our patients reported that they experienced no pain or only mild pain during their CoolSculpting treatment, but 15% reported moderate pain that was most often described as a pinching sensation that usually lasted for the first 15 minutes of the treatment before giving way to feelings of numbness and ice.

After The Treatment

61% of our patients rated the recovery process as easy or very easy, and an additional 22% rated the recovery as average with mild post-treatment discomfort. More than 80% of these patients were able to return to full activities including work and exercise immediately. 58% reported bruising, numbness, tingling, or redness.

17% of patients, however, rated the recovery as below average or hard. The majority of these patients experienced post-treatment pain that was rated as moderate in severity, but 5% of patients described severe pain. The pain was most commonly described as “pins and needles” or a burning sensation. The pain lasted 5-15 days and was improved with prescription pain medicines.  Patients who received treatment of the lower abdomen were at the highest risk of developing post-treatment pain during recovery.  

CoolSculpting 2.0 Applicators (2016-Present)

We were one of the first practices in San Francisco to obtain and use the newest and most effective CoolSculpting applicators, the CoolAdvantage and CoolAdvantage Max, in 2016.

The CoolAdvantage treatment is faster, more comfortable, and more effective than the original treatment:

  • 42% faster (treatment time is reduced from one hour to 35 minutes)
  • 45% more comfortable (due to reduced vacuum on the skin and lower cooling temperature)
  • 10% increased effectiveness (due to a larger cup volume and lower cooling temperature)

During The Treatment

90% of our patients report that the CoolAdvantage treatment is comfortable or very comfortable, with an average pain score of 1 on a scale of zero to ten. Most patients report a cooling sensation on the skin.

After The Treatment

The occurrence of pain during the recovery period has dropped from 17% to 3%. Bruising occurs less frequently. Mild numbness, tingling, redness and/or swelling may still occur.

CoolAdvantage applicators including the new CoolCurve+, CoolFit and CoolCore


Bottom Line: Is CoolSculpting Painful?

The newest generation of CoolSculpting devices, called CoolAdvantage, are very comfortable for 90% of patients both during the treatment itself and during the recovery period that follows.

The older CoolSculpting devices are also comfortable, but about 15% of patients described the treatment itself as painful and 5% described the recovery as painful for the first 1-2 weeks.

Choose The Best CoolSculpting Center 

At our San Francisco CoolSculpting Center, 77 Plastic Surgery and Dr. Larry Fan offer CoolAdvantage and DualSculpting to ensure that you receive the fastest, most comfortable, and most effective CoolSculpting treatment possible.

We have successfully treated thousands of CoolSculpting patients from San Francisco and beyond. If you are interested in learning whether you are a candidate for CoolSculpting, you can take a complimentary CoolSculpting evaluation here to see if you're a good candidate for CoolSculpting.

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About the Author

Dr. Larry Fan is a Harvard educated, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon in San Francisco, CA. He is a Master Artist who is known for creating beautiful, stunning, and natural results. Dr. Fan has been named One of America's Top Plastic Surgeons for the past 10 years running and has received several national awards for his work in Plastic Surgery. He has successfully performed more than 10,000 cosmetic procedures of the face, breasts, and body over a 20 year period. Dr Fan has been an invited speaker at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons, and has been featured in national media outlets such as CNN, NBC, and ABC.

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