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Side Effects of CoolSculpting on Outer Thighs

It’s completely normal to have excess fat in some areas of the body. In fact, it’s often a healthy thing. However, other areas can have pockets of stubborn fat that won’t disappear with diet and exercise -- such as the thighs. Patients who want to achieve a sculpted, contoured look for their leg turn to CoolSculpting, a noninvasive procedure that freezes away 20% - 25% of fat tissues with zero downtime. But although CoolSculpting is a safe, FDA-approved fat freezing treatment, side effects are still likely to occur.

So what are some of the side effects you should expect when CoolSculpting the outer thighs? Commonly, patients experience some redness, swelling, bruising, numbness, pain, or a ‘tugging sensation’ for a couple of weeks after the procedure. Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH) may also occur, as the CoolSculpting applicator suctions and freezes the fat cells in the treatment area into a “stick of butter”; this side effect is extremely rare for the outer thigh, as the applicator used is non-vacuum-based. 

Freeze Away Your Stubborn Fat Like Never Before

Up to 25% Fat Reduction With CoolSculpting: Treat Yourself Today!

CoolSculpting Stubborn Fat Around The Thighs: Does It Work?

Thigh fat can be a source of stress among patients, especially women, who are more inclined to store fat than men as they age. As their bodies prepare for childbirth, the estrogen hormone concentrates on developing sex-specific fat in the hips, thighs, buttocks, and pelvis; these fat reserves will eventually be used by the body for breastfeeding. However, because the fat production is hormone-related, fat cells in women tend to be diet and exercise-resistant. 

CoolSculpting is the ideal solution to getting rid of these stubborn bulges in the outer thigh. The medical CoolSculpting procedure relies on the concept of ‘cryolipolysis’, where subcutaneous fat breaks down when exposed to freezing temperatures. Cryolipolysis was discovered in 2008, when a Harvard researcher examined scientific literature on pediatric patients who had eaten popsicles. They found that the extreme cold can kill fat cells but leave skin cells unharmed. When the treated fat cells die, the body will break them down and flush them out of the body through the liver after a few weeks. 

Soon after, the CoolSculpting technology was developed around this idea, and has since become the gold-standard, non-invasive treatment that gets rid of the excess fat deposit under the skin. It can be used to address visible fat bulges in the upper arm, abdomen, buttocks, thighs, bra fat, and even a double chin. The CoolSculpting fat freezing procedure works like this:

1) A plastic surgeon or a licensed CoolSculpting provider will sterilize the target area before treatment and apply a topical gel. 

2) Once the skin is ready, the practitioner will use proprietary applicator tools to suction the skin like a vacuum, while actively cooling down the area to a freezing temperature. The applicator, however, will keep the surrounding tissues warm. Specific applicators would be used for the thigh, such as:

  • CoolFit applicator - treats the inner thigh fat with a flat vacuum cup and larger cooling plates 
  • CoolAdvantage applicator - tones inner thighs to create a thigh gap 
  • CoolSmooth applicator - utilizes a long, non-vacuum-based cooling plate for the hard, non-pinchable fat in the outer thigh 

3) The treatment usually lasts around 45 minutes to an hour. Still, patients can relax, read, chat, or watch TV as their practitioner sculpts the thighs. Afterwards, the applicator is removed and the treated area is massaged for a more successful breakdown of unwanted fat. 

CoolSculpting is often called “non-surgical liposuction”, as it has helped thousands of people achieve their body contouring goals. And compared to liposuction, CoolSculpting treatment isn’t invasive so it doesn’t require extensive recovery time at the hospital. Other benefits of CoolSculpting are: 

  • It can be performed as an in-office treatment, so you can pop by your dermatologist or plastic surgeon’s office during your lunch break then go back to work the same day.
  • It isn’t very painful. Although the sucking, cold sensation is uncomfortable, the CoolSculpting treatment is generally painless and there are no incisions, scarring, or bandages involved. 
  • Its results can last long. As long as you continue with a healthy diet and exercise regimen, the dead fat cells will not return. In fact, some patients are even more encouraged to pursue physical fitness in order to maintain CoolSculpting results. 

3 Side Effects of CoolSculpting The Outer Thigh 

Muscular young woman or female athlete posing at studio isolated on white background

In 2010, CoolSculpting hit the market and many people thought it was too good to be true. Since then, however, thousands of patients have contoured, toned, and tightened their thighs with CoolSculpting -- which continues to enjoy a good safety record. Still side effects may occur, such as:

1) Pain, numbness, or tugging sensations 

During the procedure itself, your skin is exposed to intense cold. A roll of fat is placed between two cooling panels, which may feel like something is pinching and pulling your skin as the fat cells are frozen and pulled out. This may create pain, stinging, and aching sensations that gradually disappear on their own after 3 - 11 days. 

You may also feel some temporary numbness in the targeted area for a few weeks, which is normal. Although these sensations can be bothersome, the skin cells, muscle tissues, and nerves are unharmed, so nothing will stop you from doing any normal activity. 

2) Bruising, redness, and inflammation

For a majority of patients, they will experience side effects that are similar to frostbite, as the cold targets the fatty tissue below the skin. Temporary redness, bruising, itching, swelling, inflammation, and skin sensitivity may be felt at the treatment area and recede after a few days, although this can vary with the specific area. The abdomen, in particular, is more sensitive to these unwanted effects, while the outer thigh may experience late onset pain on the third day after treatment. The bruises can be relieved with a gentle massage, if necessary.

3) Paradoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH) 

PAH is a rare but serious side effect to CoolSculpting, which may occur in the months following the initial treatment. In theory, cryolipolysis is supposed to chill tissue to the point that the fat cells crystalize, disintegrate, and leave the body as waste so the thigh slims down. 

However, the fat cells may also harden into an unnaturally shaped lump in response to the cold; this is PAH, which expands the recently targeted fat cells instead of shrinking them. Sometimes, it is also called the “stick of butter” effect, as the fat bulge resembles the shape of the CoolSculpting applicator -- which looks like a stick of butter.

It’s not yet fully understood why PAH occurs, nor why it occurs more often in male patients. The good news is that it’s just a cosmetic side effect, rather than a life-threatening one. Unfortunately, the stick of butter won’t disappear on its own -- it has to be treated with liposuction. Patients would need to live with a noticeable bulge for 6 - 9 months until the fat softens enough to remove safely. Still, this is a rare side effect with a 0.0051% chance of occurring, especially in the thighs which use a non-suction applicator. 

Freeze Away Your Stubborn Fat Like Never Before

Up to 25% Fat Reduction With CoolSculpting: Treat Yourself Today!

The Ideal Candidate for CoolSculpting Procedure 

For most people, CoolSculpting is a safe and effective method for reducing body fat. Compared to other forms of fat reduction, CoolSculpting freezes and flushes out fat cells so they never return. And because it’s non-invasive and non-surgical, there won’t be any incisions, scarring, or a required recovery time for patients. If you’re unhappy with the size of your thighs, self-conscious about the “thigh jiggle”, or uncomfortable in skinny jeans and shorts, then you should definitely consider CoolSculpting. 

An ideal CoolSculpting patient would have good overall health and a stable weight. It’s important to note that the CoolSculpting treatment is not for weight loss or obesity, so patients should have realistic expectations for the outcome. CoolSculpting works best to dissolve fat cells that won’t go away despite diet and exercise. Patients also won’t see final results for at least 3 - 4 months after treatment, and receive the best fat and cellulite reduction after 3 - 6 sessions. 

Patients with a weakened immune system or have certain conditions that change the body’s ability to handle the cold should not receive this treatment. Serious complications may occur if a patient has disorders like:

  • Cryoglobulinemia - a disorder where proteins that usually only increase as a response to the cold appear in abnormally high concentrations 
  • Cold agglutinin disease - an autoimmune condition where temperature changes can kill red blood cells
  • Paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria - a disorder where red blood cells die in response to temperature changes 

You should also avoid undergoing CoolSculpting if you:

  • Are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant 
  • Have Reynaud’s disease
  • Have nerve conditions like diabetic neuropathy 
  • Have skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, or hives 
  • Have chronic pain conditions 
  • Have severe anxiety disorders 
  • Have bleeding conditions that thin the blood
  • Have a recent skin injury or a scar tissue in the area being treated 

Whether or not you have certain pre-existing conditions, it’s important to talk to your physician before seeking out a board certified plastic surgeon to CoolSculpt your thighs. Your provide should be able to answer all your questions about the treatment, how it works, expected results, and potential side effects. They should also be able to evaluate how many sessions you will need and how well the procedure will work for you, depending on your skin type and muscle mass. 

Learn more: How Much Fat Must I Have to Fill Coolsculpting Cup Thighs

Preventing Adverse Effects Before and After Your CoolSculpting Session 

A doctor has her back to the camera while talking to an older female patient. The patient is smiling at her while her hands rest in her lap.

One of the great things about CoolSculpting is that it requires no downtime. After undergoing treatment, you can easily return to your daily life right away; there’s no issue about going back to work, driving, or exercising after the procedure. Most of the discomfort and minor side effects of the CoolSculpting procedure disappear on their own after a few days, around the same time you’ll begin to see results. 

However, it’s still good to prepare yourself so you can manage any pain and minimize potential adverse reactions before and after CoolSculpting. Some pre-treatment and aftercare tips are: 

1) Consult thoroughly with your provider. 

Consulting with your prospective provider is the essential first step for any cosmetic surgery, so it’s important not to skip on it. Your provider should determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for CoolSculpting, based on your health history. They would also be able to answer your questions and guide you on what you should expect. If possible, you should try to meet with more than one provider to see who you think you would work best with, as not every dermatologist or aesthetician is qualified to perform CoolSculpting. For your own safety, you should work with someone who has plenty of experience performing this treatment. 

2) Prepare ahead for your comfort. 

Even if CoolSculpting doesn’t require any downtime, it’s best not to let yourself stress too much on the day of the treatment. Make arrangements for your schedule if needed, eat a snack to prevent nausea, and bring something you can read or play with during the procedure. Wear loose, comfortable clothing like yoga pants to minimize discomfort after CoolSculpting. And make sure to save your doctor’s number so you can report any severe side effects or ask them for aftercare tips, if needed. 

3) Skip the anti-inflammatories. 

Prior to the procedure, your doctor will instruct you to avoid certain products like aspirin, alcohol, vitamin E, St. John’s Wort, fish oil, and other blood-thinners, as these can trigger bruising. Remember to follow these instructions and take care of your body in the week leading up to the procedure. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep, and skip on the caffeine and nicotine during this period. 

4) Get over-the-counter (OTC) medication.

As CoolSculpting is a non-surgical treatment, no anesthesia or prescription pain medications will be prescribed to relieve any post-treatment discomfort. Expect to experience some soreness in your thighs, similar to the feeling you can after an intense workout, as your body shrinks and slims down the outer thigh. You can get acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen) to help with pain, swelling, or inflammation. 

5) Try other forms of pain relief. 

Some patients don’t want to take medication to treat post-CoolSculpting discomfort. If you count yourself as one of these patients, be sure to move around after the treatment to reduce pain and inflammation. You can also ask your CoolSculpting specialist to massage the treatment area, which helps increase the efficacy of the fat-freezing process and minimize any potential side effects. Aside from massage therapy, gentle exercises, deep breathing exercises, and warm compresses may also help with pain relief.

Say Goodbye to Unwanted Fat Cells at the NJ Center for CoolSculpting 

The NJ Center for CoolSculpting in Summit, New Jersey is a leader in the revolutionary, non-surgical CoolSculpting technique. Our board-certified doctors, certified aestheticians, and licensed physician assistants are dedicated to providing the safest, most effective body contouring procedure against stubborn fat deposits. 

After performing hundreds of CoolSculpting treatments each month, we are confident that we can deliver the CoolSculpting result you want to achieve. We’ll help you look and feel your best, inside and outside. Contact the NJ Center for CoolSculpting to schedule an appointment today. 

Freeze Away Your Stubborn Fat Like Never Before

Up to 25% Fat Reduction With CoolSculpting: Treat Yourself Today!


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What Our Clients Say About Us

  • "The treatment itself was not uncomfortable. Afterwords, I felt great. I didn't really notice anything for about 30 days. After day 30 until about a month later, I started noticing that my favorite jeans were not as tight anymore. I wasn't having to suck in to get them buttoned. And by that two month period after my CoolSculpting

    Lesley Hamilton

    Age 41

  • "It's subtle at first, and then a month later you look and go, "Wow - It really did something!" It really moved the bar for me, and I'm feeling better about myself already. It feels so good to put on anything and know I look as good as I've ever looked. And I didn't say that or feel that when I was in my 20's, 30's, and 40's."

    Anne McMarthy

    Age 56

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