Pain during Sculpsure. Is this normal?

I just had the procedure done about a week ago on several different areas: outer thighs, upper and lower abs and love handles. Some areas were incredibly painful and others were just mildly painful. I also tried to have the procedure done on my inner thighs but that was just unbearable! Are there any particular reason for the differences in pain? Will this effect the outcome. Also, the area that hurt the worst is black and blue. Any thoughts on this?

Doctor Answers 12

Is pain normal during a Sculpsure treatment?

Thanks for sharing your question. I can appreciate your concern.

Pain is a subjective issue. In most of the cases the procedure is very well tolerated. However, stria, or scar tissue may be the reason for overheating tissue generating more sensitivity, and requiring lowering the settings.

Wishing you the best in your journey

Different parts of the body may be more sensitive than other parts.

Different parts of the body may be more sensitive than other parts. The inner thighs in particular are extremely sensitive to pain due to a higher concentration of nerve endings near the surface. In addition, each individual patient has a different pain tolerance. The nice thing about SculpSure is that the settings can be adjusted for each patient, so no one should have to be in unbearable pain during the procedure. Different levels of pain will not affect the overall outcome.

Margaret Weiss, MD
Baltimore Dermatologic Surgeon
3.7 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Pain and SculpSure

Pain is very subjective. I have had the treatment myself, and know that if the levels go up from 0.9 to 1.4 there is a noticeable difference in pain. 

The trend is that SculpSure is less painful in FDA approved areas, such as the flanks and abdomen, and universally painful on the inner thighs. This goes for most other treatments as well. Nerves are more common in that area (superficial nerves), hence accounting for more sensitivity. 

As for the black and blue- that suggest bruising rather than skin burns. I personally have not seen that happen with Sculpsure. Perhaps applicator on too tightly? Hard to comment without a picture or examination. 

All the best

Dr Davin Lim
Laser and aesthetic dermatologist
Brisbane, Australia. 
FIORI INSTITUTE of Body Contouring

Davin Lim, MBBS, FACD
Brisbane Dermatologist
4.7 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

Pain varies with Sculpture

Pain varies with Sculpsure. Most patients do well and find it tolerable.
One patient found it very painful, however, this same patient did great treating her flanks the same day without any great pain.  Not sure why her abdomen hurt so much more than her flanks both with the same intensity, the same day.
Certain areas such as the inner thighs and arms are more tender.
There is variability within the Sculpsure laser machine to increase or decrease the laser intensity and help you with pain.
Not sure why it is bruised.
Best wishes, 
Dr. Denkler

Keith Denkler, MD
Marin Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Pain During SculpSure is it Normal?

Hi Marjules. Thank you for your question. Pain tolerance varies on the individual. Various areas may be more tender to some patients while others may be perfectly fine. The administrator of the SculpSure procedure has the ability to adjust each applicator to the appropriate setting for each patient, hotter or cooler. For optimal comfort blasts of coolness can be given upon a patient's request. 

The outcome should not be affected, but with our patients we have found bruising to not be typical. In our office we have done over 760 applicators and only one instance was there mild bruising on the abdomen. Good luck with your recovery!

Jeffrey A. Klein, MD
San Juan Capistrano Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Pain during SculpSure is very unusual

SculpSure, the world's first laser FDA indicated for non surgical fat reduction of the abdomen and flanks is typically painless during the treatment.  The skin does heat up during the procedure and some patients are unable to tolerate the session.  The laser is adjustable and the settings can be lowered during the session to decrease the amount of discomfort.  The discomfort does vary from different regions on the body and treating any other area of the body other than the abdomen and flanks is considered "off label" by the FDA.

I have found that the discomfort is higher in the arms and in patients with more target tissue (fat).  This is one of the reasons that it is not indicated for people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30.  In areas around bone the discomfort is greater.  This technology was FDA approved in the fall of 2015 and we as providers are still learning the nuances and applications of this laser.  It is my understanding that the company is also updating it's software to allow lower settings to help in situations where the pain during the procedure is too high.  There is a fail safe cooling setting that can be used during the treatment session to cool the area for about 4 minutes, but still continue with the planned session, just over a little longer period of time than the original 25 minutes.

I have not seen any bruising (black and blue) from the laser.  But, the straps used to hold the applicator templates in place can pinch the skin and cause some bruising.  Also, if a patient is on any type of blood thinners or anti-inflammatory medications bruising can occur.

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

SculpSure Pain

SculpSure is always slightly uncomfortable but everyone's pain tolerance is different. Different areas of the body can be more sensitive than others. We have also found that the way the applicators are set up can also depend on how much pain you feel. The good thing though is that it does not affect the outcome, you will still get the same results. The black and blues may be from the technician not applying the applicators correctly and it could have been pinching the skin.

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

#sculpsure/#Body Contouring/ #Hi Definition Procedures

Thank you for your question.

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. 

If you notice lumps after (which I've never seen) I would recommend massage. You should also alert your surgeon.

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 our 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

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

Pain from SculpSure

Sorry to hear about your painful experience. SculpSure is typically painless for patients, but some discomfort can occur based on the individual's pain tolerance levels. Inner thighs are highly sensitive areas and therefore an individual would experience more pain there. Bruising can occur on a sensitive treatment area and will dissolve within a few days.

Jennifer Levine, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

SculpSure Should Not Be Painful

Sorry to hear about your experience. Typically, SculpSure patients have a strong tingling / borderline pain for only a couple of seconds before each cooling phase begins. The inner thighs and upper back tend to be the most sensitive areas.  A small amount of bruising happens and it should clear up. I wonder what settings your doctor was using? I've never encountered anyone who went through anything like you described, because we adjust to patient sensitivity just as Cynosure, the manufacturer, recommends. 

Patrick W. Blake, MD
Encinitas Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

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.