Does SculpSure damage muscle? Can it be used for the upper back?

How deep does the laser reach? Can it damage muscle? How about passing through muscle if not damaging it? I would like to treat my upper back since I tend to store my stubborn fat there. But since the FDA has only approved for abs & flanks, I'd be worried that it would reach my breast fat & destroy what little I have. I'm the skinny-fat type, no matter how much weight lifting & cardio I do.

Doctor Answers 17

SculpSure Targets Fat

Like many devices, Sculpsure is often times used off label. Currently, SculpSure is FDA approved to treat the abdomen and flanks, however, off label, I have seen great results in patients who have had treatment to the upper back and bra fat. SculpSure penetrates up to 1.5 cm deep at a wavelength of 1060 nm. This wavelength was chosen to destroy fat cells without damaging surrounding tissues. Unlike other noninvasive body contouring devices, there is no post-procedure pain, numbness, injury to muscle, blood vessels, or other structures. During consultations with my patients, we discuss all their concerns and goals of the treatment, as well as determining that each patient is the right candidate for Sculpsure. It is important to find a doctor that has experience with lasers including SculpSure especially when treating off label areas.

The Beauty of Lasers to Selectively Target

Lasers have this great ability to selectively target certain tissues, and the SculpSure laser only targets and damages fat, and only to a depth of about 3cm. We have seen it is perfectly safe for the off-label use of treating back fat.
When it comes to the concern of treating areas you’d rather not lose fat in, don’t be overly worried. The SculpSure treatment panels deliver laser energy to an area of up to 3cm away from the panel edge. So, your trained provider would be sure to position the panels at least 3cm away from the breast tissue, assuming you are treating bra fat near your armpit. If you are planning to treat bra fat near your armpit, you may also want to see a bra fit specialist prior to sculpsure – it may be that what you see as a stubborn roll of fat is actually breast tissue that cannot properly fit in a bra cup that is too small. If you are treating bra fat that’s really more on the back than near the armpit, then you should rest easy knowing the laser would never be able to reach tissue that far away.

Mark Karolak, DO, FAOCO
Bridgewater Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

SculpSure does not damage your muscles

Thank you for your question. The SculpSure procedure will not damage or pass through your muscles. It is a hyperthermic laser fat removal system that directs laser energy into your desired areas. The laser energy heats the fat cells and surrounding tissues which is only the subcutaneous fat layer. So it is not near the muscle region. Although the abs and flanks are the only ones currently FDA approved, we’ve had many patients come in to treat their mid-back or “bra” fat area and they’ve been pleased with the results. The treatment on your back will not reach your breast fat area. If you are interested, I recommend consulting with a qualified physician for a full consultation.

Bruce E. Katz, MD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
3.8 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

SculpSure Targets Fat

SculpSure is extremely effective at treating stubborn fat areas which for many people that many include the inner and outer thighs. Currently, SculpSure is only FDA approved for the abdomen and flanks. However, as doctors are becoming more familiar with SculpSure they have started successfully treating other areas such as the inner and outer thighs. In the future other areas of the body will become FDA approved and will become more common.No, SculpSure cannot cause muscle damage. . SculpSure is targeting unwanted fat cells and cannot penetrate deep enough to impact your muscles. SculpSure penetrates up to 1.5 cm deep at a wavelength of 1060 nm. This wavelength was chosen to destroy fat cells without damaging surrounding tissues.

Scott Chapin, MD, FACS
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

SculpSure for back

You are correct that SculpSure is currently FDA-approved for use on the abdomen and flanks, but the back can be treated as an off-label use.  I have treated women to this area in the past.  The laser will only penetrate to the subcutaneous fat level and not deeper to the muscle, so it would not reach the breast fat when treating the back.  

Michael I. Echavez, MD
San Francisco Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 18 reviews


SculpSure is the world’s first FDA-cleared laser treatment for non-invasive lipolysis of the flanks and abdomen. At my office we have successfully used it on other areas such as hips, love handles, thighs, buttocks, upper arms, over knees and fat bulges over the bra. It’s a state-of-the-art, controlled light-based technology, ideal for patients looking to get rid of stubborn fat.The 1060 nm wavelength’s specific affinity for adipose tissue, coupled with minimal absorption in the dermis, allows SculpSure to efficiently treat areas of troublesome fat in just 25 minutes. Over time, the body naturally eliminates the disrupted fat cells with results seen as quickly as 6 weeks and optimal results usually seen in as few as 12 weeks. So you can see SculpSure does not go deep enough to damage any muscle. It would be perfect to treat the upper back!

  • Controlled hyperthermic fat reduction
  • Elevates adipose tissue temperature between 42°C and 47°C
  • No damage to dermal tissue
  • Up to 24% fat reduction1
  • Clinically proven in multisite trials in over 100 patients
  • Over 90% patient satisfaction rate2
  • Comfortable and well-tolerated treatment3
  • Can be used on all skin types

Dennis Gross, MD
New York Dermatologist
4.4 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Sculpsure works great for back fat

Sculpsure has been approved for the abdomen flanks/love handles but its core mission is to target fat a below the skin.  It will not typically go deep enough to reach the muscles in most cases.  Even so, because it targets fat, it theoretically can be used anywhere there is fat, even on your back.  We've been using it in my practice since it first came out and have a great amount of experience with it.  I suggest you find a Sculpsure specialist in your area to see how well it may work for you

Nikesh K. Patel, MD
Freehold Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

SculpSure does not damage muscle

SculpSure, the world's first laser FDA indicated for non-surgical fat reduction, does not target muscle tissue. The specific wavelength of the laser concentrates it's energy on fat cells. It can be used basically on any area of the body where there is subcutaneous fat, as an off label use. It works well on the upper back and bra liine area, takes only 24 minutes and there is no down time.

David Finkle, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

Sculpsure, Coolsculpting, Vanquish, Thermi

Sculpsure is a noninvasive 1060nm diode laser treatment that removes up to 25% of stubborn fat in the treated area in 25 minutes.It is FDA approved for the abdomen and flanks. It is safe if you get pregnant in the future.
The body contouring effects are seen in as quick as six weeks with final results at 12 weeks.
The results are permanent as long as you maintain your weight and health.
The laser targets and destroys the fat cells only which are then naturally removed from the body. Since the laser does not affect the skin or muscle it can be used on all skin colors and there has been no reported incidents of burns when treated by a properly trained physician. It is protective since it alternates heating and cooling.
It has four applicators that can be customized to treat the areas of stubborn fat.
If a second treatment is needed we wait at least six weeks and usually closer to 12.

There is no downtime and you can resume your normal activities right after the treatment. There may be some soreness in the area for a few days for which you can take ibuprofen or tylenol. A cold compress can also be used.

Sculpsure is not used for skin tightening however some of her patients have seen this. If more skin tightening is needed we have combined this with thermi or Ulthera for a complete treatment. Sculpsure is recommended for stubborn areas of fat that are not being lost by diet and exercise. It is not a weight loss treatment

Since I have both a coolsculpting and sculpsure I am working on protocols of utilizing both of these depending upon what areas need to be treated and the response to the treatment.
I have used sculpsure on other areas other than the abdomen with very good results.

I also use a Vectra 3D imaging system to try and show people what their treatment areas could look like.

Since Sculpsure outcomes can be based on technique and experience, please see a board certified plastic surgeon that specializes body contouring to see if Sculpsure or other treatments are available to meet your goals.

Take care,

Dr Schwartz
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
Director-Beverly Hills Breast and Body Institute

Jaime S. Schwartz, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 91 reviews

Does Sculpsure damage muscle

Again it would be an off label use.  The laser targets fat cell and does not penetrate deep enough to damage muscle.

Timothy Fee, MD
Jacksonville Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 56 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.