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Why Do Some Coolsculpting Patient Report Little Pain and Others Report Severe Pain?

Is there a reason why there are such different responsed to the level of pain with coolsculpting?

Doctor Answers 14

Reactions to CoolSculpting treatment

Thank you for your question.

The CoolSculpting method is based on science performed by the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Research determined that fat cells are more vulnerable to cold temperatures and when introduced to these cold climates are effortlessly and permanently demolished. Beginning weeks after the cooling application, the cooled fat cells initiate the process of solidifying the fat cells without destroying surrounding tissues, eventually causing the cells to shrink and disappear naturally. Gradually as the cells diminish, the depth of the fat layer will be reduced.

Each patient is different with how they respond to this procedure.  Usually, patients experience more of the achy, tingly, etc when the procedure is performed on the abdomen vs. other areas. It really is patient specific.


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Why Do Some Coolsculpting Patient Report Little Pain and Others Report Severe Pain?

Thanks for your question. Coolsculpting is a fairly pain free procedure. Patients that report a lot of discomfort after the procedure were likely treated with the larger head piece that treats the lower abdomen. The abdomen tends to be the most sensitive area to treat but also the most popular.  Areas like inner and outer thighs have very few complaints of pain.

Brian C. Reuben, MD
Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Cool sculpting and pain

Thanks for your question. Pain during the procedure is very unusual. When the device is initially applied, some patients describe mild discomfort or pressure at about 4 minutes which usually subsides within one minute. Make sure to see a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery for all your aesthetic concerns. Best of luck!

Richard Chaffoo, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Pain Variation with CoolSculpting

Hi, thank you for your question. The first factor to consider is that every individual’s pain threshold is different. Unlike tumescent liposuction, CoolSculpting is a non-invasive treatment. It requires no incision and no intrusive vacuuming of the targeted fat. CoolSculpting works by using a two-paneled device that holds the targeted area and delivers cooling technology to freeze fat cells. The fat cells die through apoptosis and are then disposed of by the body’s natural defenses. There is no anesthesia or pain medication needed with this procedure. The severe pain reported may be due to a low pain threshold and unfamiliarity with the cold temperature on the bare skin. Rest assured that CoolSculpting will never drop to temperatures that cause frostbite. The technology simply targets fat cells while leaving all other skin, tissue and healthy cells undisturbed.

Daniel Behroozan, MD, FAAD
Los Angeles Dermatologic Surgeon

Cool sculpting recovery

Because each person is different.  It should not require more than tylenol or an anti-inflammatory to resolve the discomfort.

Body reshaping can be performed with a cannula that removes fat via liposuction or with noninvasive technology like Cool Sculpting. With Cool Sculpting there is no cannula inserted into your body. All treatments are performed on the surface from the outside in using technology that freezes the fat. Don’t hesitate to give us a call in Austin regarding a Body Reshaping Consult at the Upper Room. On our Facebook Page there is an Interview I recently did with KVUE, a local news station in Austin, that was picked by affiliates around the United States, including Miami. During the Interview we discussed the technology of Cool Sculpting as well as it application process.

The discomfort from treatment does resolve. Taking over the counter tylenol or naproxen resolves this in the majority of cases. If you have swelling that is persistent then a waist binder is helpful.

CoolSculpting and pain

During the CoolSculpting procedure, there will be intense cooling for a few minutes. Some people find this uncomfortable, but the area soon becomes numb and people can relax and feel quite comfortable during a treatment. Following the treatment most people continue with their day normally with little to no discomfort. Over the course of a few days, some people feel mild discomfort similar to the feeling one might have after a workout. On occasion, significant discomfort has been reported. The patients who experience significant discomfort are almost always patients who have had treatment with a single large applicator administered to the lower abdomen area.  In my practice, we offer compression garments like the ones we use for patients following tummy tucks or liposuction. This has seemed to provide additional comfort and support to patients. On occasion, a patient might find relief with a non-narcotic pain medication called Neurontin.  This can be prescribed by the doctor or the physician assistants and nurse practitioners in the practice. However, most patients do not require medication following a CoolSculpting procedure.

Michael Law, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Pain After CoolSculpting

Each patient is different, and therefore healing times and severity of side effects differs. For example, one patient might have a very high pain threshold whereas another patient could be very sensitive. It all depends on the individual receiving the treatment. Generally, patients do not experience severe pain after CoolSculpting. 

Very Few CoolSculpting Patients Experience Extreme Pain

There are multiple factors that determine each individual’s experience with CoolSculpting. Each patient has a different comfort threshold, though only a very small percentage of CoolSculpting patients experience extreme pain. Another factor may be where the patient is treated. For some individuals, certain areas may be more sensitive than others. It’s important for patients to research CoolSculpting providers to find a CoolSculpting Certified Practice to ensure that providers are adequately trained and experienced in the use of CoolSculpting technology. Once you’ve done this, your provider can determine if you’re a suitable candidate.

D. Scott Karempelis, MD
Atlanta Dermatologic Surgeon
2.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Cool sculpting is highly tolerable

Dear Debbie, great question. Typically there is some mild discomfort, tenderness and swelling following cool sculpting procedure that is quite tolerable. This is pretty consistent but can vary in intensity from patient to patient and likely reflects normal inter patient variability in pain tolerance as well as how much fat was treated. This is tolerated very well in most patients with little effect on lifestyle or daily activities. There is a small number of patients (.04%) who experience more intense pain that is less tolerable. This is thought to be neurogenic in origin and is transient, often lasting less than a week. If necessary can be treated until resolved. This is a relatively rare event, but can happen and is reassuring that it is short lived and with no long term consequences.

Andrea Willey, MD
Sacramento Dermatologic Surgeon

Only a very small percentage of patients experience extreme pain

Everyone is different and everyone's pain tolerance is different, however, it is important to know that only a very small percentage of patients experience extreme pain.  In fact, we have treated a large number of patients over the last year and only 1 patient has experienced extreme pain, which also completely resolved after two weeks.


Renato Saltz, MD
Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.