The Science of Reducing Cellulite With Shockwave Therapy

You may already be familiar with the unflattering references to a thing called cellulite. The terms describing cellulite such as “dimples,” “bumples,” “lumpy gravy,” “hail damage,” “orange peel,” and probably the most popular term, “cottage cheese.”
These references certainly do not bring any positive images to mind.

However unflattering the description may be, unfortunately, it can be a fairly accurate assessment of the appearance of skin once cellulite develops.

It Gets Even Worse…

Cellulite, or its medical term, “gynoid lipodystrophy,” is a condition where skin in one or more areas of the body begins to take on a dimpled, bumpy appearance.

Cellulite begins to show up as we age, partly due to the decrease in collagen production and loss of elasticity in the skin. Once collagen levels drop, internal collagen fibers loosen and the underlying framework which supports the skin begins to loosen (sag), as well.

Specifically, cellulite is the result of enlarged fat cells that become lodged under the skin. When the fat cells get bigger and get trapped under the skin, the skin begins to bulge outward, which is why the skin takes on that dimpled, bumpy effect.

The enlarged fat cells also block and restrict blood flow, which not only present circulation problems, but cause the fat cells to form even more clusters underneath the skin.As the outer skin layer begins to thin out, usually due to age, and the fat cells continue to form clusters, the result once again is an irregular, dimpled or bumpy appearance.

When your body develops cellulite, there are three distinctive stages you will notice:

  1. Skin is noticeably “dimpled” when any squeezing or pressure is applied to the affected area
  2. Skin is noticeably “dimpled” when standing, but not when sitting or lying down
  3. Skin is noticeably “dimpled” when either lying down or standing up

The most common areas of the body where cellulite develops tend to be in the stomach area, upper arms, legs/knees and buttocks.

Other favorite places cellulite likes to appear is anywhere on the body where collagen, elastin and/or subcutaneous fat and tissue break down. The breakdown of youthful cells and weakened tissue not only can result in cellulite, but also a “sagging” appearance of the skin.

Cellulite does not discriminate. Anyone of any size, weight, gender or age can develop cellulite. There are other factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, age, smoking, hormonal changes and genetics that can increase the appearance and onset of cellulite.

According to statistics, it’s believed that over 85% of post-adolescent women have cellulite.

Women are plagued with cellulite because their bodies are comprised of more fat than a man’s more muscular body. This explains why only a small percentage of men develop cellulite.

Although cellulite can hit ladies at any age, it hits pretty hard by the time they reach their 40’s or 50’s.

“At least 90% of women have cellulite, but it’s probably closer to 100%.”
– Dr. Gregory LaTrenta, Board-Certified Skin Care Specialist

Cellulite Treatment Options

Because the appearance of cellulite can make you feel self-conscious and unhappy about your physical appearance, or makes you look even older than your age, there have been several different treatment options.

Some of the cellulite-busting treatment options include:

  • Camouflaging affected areas
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Body wraps (herbal, seaweed, mud, coffee)
  • Body lotions, lifting/smoothing creams
  • Self-tanners
  • Compression gear (support hose, body shapers/slimmers)
  • Hydration (drinking more water to plump skin)
  • Massage
  • Laser, red or blue light therapy
  • Liposuction

While some of these methods may improve the appearance of the skin, none are “cures” for removing cellulite.

Certainly, exercising 15-30 minutes per day, drinking lots of water to keep the skin hydrated and using topical lotions to keep the outer layer of skin moisturized can help the skin to look better.

However, the problem with most if not all of these methods is that they do not attack and work on reducing cellulite from a deep cellular level.

For example, the creams, especially those containing retinol, can help the skin stay smooth and soft, but typically cannot be absorbed deeply enough to do any real inside work. Also, while liposuction can help remove stubborn fat pockets from the body, it does very little to treat cellulite.

Unfortunately, none of these methods offer long-term, dramatic results for reducing or eliminating the look of cellulite.

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy for Reduction of Cellulite

The good news is that according to case studies, it has been medically proven that a treatment therapy known as Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) has been shown to reduce and improve the appearance of cellulite.

This treatment option was originally used to treat chronic pain in joints, muscles and other painful injuries. Those suffering from these chronically painful injuries received ESWT and most reported that after only a few treatments, there was marked improvement in mobility, healing and pain management.

After further testing, ESWT has shown exciting evidence towards demonstrating real, measurable improvement in the treatment of cellulite reduction.

After a series of treatments, the positive results from ESWT may help:

  • Reduce the production and look of cellulite
  • Break down enlarged fat cells
  • Restore connective tissue
  • Improve muscle tone
  • Improve skin elasticity
  • Promote lymphatic drainage (elimination of toxins/waste)
  • Improve blood flow/circulation
  • Promote increased production of collagen
  • Reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars
  • Tighten, firm and smooth out loose skin
How ESWT Works

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT), also commonly referred to as Shockwave Therapy, Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Therapy (EPAT) and Extracorporeal Acoustic Wave Therapy, is an out-patient treatment used to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Shock Therapy refers to the energetic, acoustic waves which create vibrations that positively impact the underlying connective tissue, cells and ultimately, the skin itself.
The term “extracorporeal” refers to the method by which the shock waves are transmitted through the skin. In this case, the shock waves are delivered externally through a pad and into the skin.

Along with treating cellulite, the therapy will also help to stimulate collagen production, rejuvenate connective tissue, improve elasticity of the skin and give skin an overall firmer, smoother and tighter appearance.
What is really happening during the ESWT process is that shock waves cause micro tears in the connective tissues while breaking down the fatty deposits (cellulite). When the minor tearing (injury) occurs, the body automatically increases the amount of collagen to the affected area as a means of healing.
When the collagen goes to work and restores/heals tendons and tissue, the treated/injured tendons and tissue are replaced with a denser, rejuvenated frame (collagen fibers) and from there, firmer and tighter tendons and tissue. From the outside, the visible result is lifted, firmer, smoother skin.
The shock waves are transmitted via handheld treatment device which delivers a series of acoustic (similar to sound) waves directly into the deep connective tissue of the affected area. Acoustic waves generate strong, energized pulses which send vibrations directly to the skin and tissue.
By using a handheld device, “shock” (or radial/acoustic pressure) waves target enlarged fat cells and break them down.

The procedure starts by covering the area to be treated with an antiseptic gel (much like the gel used during an ultrasound).

The handheld device is moved in either a grid-like pattern both vertically and horizontally across the treatment area. Another method is to move the device in a series of wavy (or “snake”) lines in the treatment area in both a vertical and horizontal direction.

Based on individual evaluation and desired results, the appropriate pressure, number of shocks and intensity of shocks will be determined by the clinician.

The tip or head of the shockwave therapy device treats the entire area. By applying the correct amount of pressure and executing a number of shocks at frequent intervals, the underlying tissue can be regenerated once the enlarged fat cells (cellulite) are broken down.

The level of pain during or just after completion of the treatment may be moderate, but typically passes in 48 hours or less. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce the level of pain or discomfort until it passes.

A success rate for achieving noticeable improvement in smoother, firmer skin with less visible cellulite is as high as 75% or more for patients treated. The results have been documented in extensive scientific case studies.

The Skinny on ESWT

To sum up the benefits of Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy:

  • ESWT is a safe, non-invasive, FDA-approved form of treatment for the reduction of cellulite and other improved body benefits.
  • Various parts of the body can be treated effectively.
  • Although there is no downtime after a treatment, it is recommended to take it easy for approximately 48 hours afterwards.
  • A typical ESWT session takes about 30 minutes or less.
  • Noticeable results can be achieved in just a few sessions (8-10 treatments are recommended).
  • The cost per treatment session varies depending upon the treatment facility, area(s) to be treated; type of device/shocks required and desired results.

Although not a permanent solution or cure and requires several treatments to achieve the desired effect and maintenance of the skin, over 78% of patients have experienced excellent results in the appearance of their skin and effective treatment of cellulite.

Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy gives patients a safe, non-invasive option to treat the unattractive look of cellulite. This therapy is a medically-proven and effective means of achieving real and dramatic results.

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