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Managing Swelling After CoolSculpting: What to Expect and How to Recover

That Sight in the Mirror After CoolSculpting Has You Swollen, Now What?

We all want to slip into our skinny jeans with ease. 

So when diet and exercise alone don't conquer our trouble spots, we turn to the latest body contouring treatments like CoolSculpting. This non-invasive approach to fat reduction uses controlled cooling to target and eliminate fat cells

While the results can be transformative, they don’t happen instantly. It takes about three months to see your full CoolSculpting results—and that’s partly because swelling is a normal side effect that masks your fat loss for weeks after each treatment.

Here’s a detailed look at what to expect when it comes to swelling after CoolSculpting, along with tips to find relief and reveal your smoother contours:

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What Causes Swelling After CoolSculpting?

During your CoolSculpting session, a gel pad and applicator are applied to target fatty areas like the abdomen, flanks, or thighs. Controlled cooling is delivered through the applicator to freeze and crystallize fat cells without harming surrounding tissue. Over the next few weeks and months, these dead fat cells are naturally flushed out of the body.

It’s this process of eliminating frozen fat cells that leads to temporary swelling. Here’s what happens:

  • Inflammatory Response - When fat cells are damaged by cooling, inflammation and swelling occurs as part of the body's natural healing response. This involves increased blood flow and fluid to the treatment area.
  • Lymphatic System Response - Crystallized fat cells are processed and removed by the lymphatic system. This can cause temporary backup and fluid buildup, resulting in swelling.
  • Remaining Fat Cells Expand - Once damaged fat cells are eliminated, remaining cells may temporarily expand to fill the space. This expansion can also contribute to post-treatment swelling.

So in summary, inflammatory reactions, lymphatic drainage, and fat cell expansion together create common swelling after CoolSculpting. This is a normal part of the body’s natural response.

When Does Swelling Peak After CoolSculpting?

coolsculpting on tummy

It’s totally normal for swelling to occur after a CoolSculpting session. Your body mounts an inflammatory response to the trauma of freezing, which shows up as edema and puffiness. But when does post-CoolSculpting swelling reach its peak?

CoolSculpting sessions last 35 to 75 minutes per treatment area. Within the first 24 hours afterwards, patients often notice some minor swelling, redness, and tenderness around the targeted zone. This inflammation continues to intensify and swelling typically peaks at around 2 to 5 days post-treatment.

For example, if you received CoolSculpting on a Friday, you can expect swelling to become most pronounced between Sunday and Tuesday. It then gradually resolves over the next 10 days or so. But swelling duration can vary:

  • Abdominal swelling may last longer than swelling in other treatment areas
  • You may experience edema for 2 to 4 weeks after a session
  • Swelling could linger for up to a few months if multiple body areas are treated in one visit

The more CoolSculpting sessions you undergo, the more prolonged inflammation becomes. That’s because each new treatment restarts the swelling process all over again.

What Does Post-CoolSculpting Swelling Feel Like?

The level of discomfort that accompanies post-treatment swelling depends on your pain tolerance and the location treated. Areas with thicker fat layers—like the abdomen, flanks and back—tend to get more swollen. This added girth and pressure can make the treatment zone feel:

  • Bloated
  • Tight
  • Stiff
  • Tender
  • Bruised
  • Tingly

The treated area may also look swollen and uneven until the inflammation resolves. Some patients describe the sensations as comparable to a post-workout soreness. Others feel minimal discomfort.

Doctors can prescribe medications to relieve swelling-related aches if needed. But any pain generally subsides within a week as the swelling starts decreasing.

Is My Post-CoolSculpting Swelling Normal?

Mild to moderate swelling is completely expected after non-invasive cryolipolysis. But call your doctor promptly if you experience:

  • Intense or worsening pain
  • Severe abdominal swelling over a large area
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Blisters, hives, rash or other signs of allergic reaction
  • Numbness or tingling lasting more than a few weeks
  • Any signs of infection like pus, fever or red streaks

While rare, swelling complications can include:

  • Vasovagal response: Some patients briefly faint due to the extremes of hot then cold. This leads to temporary swelling.
  • Paradoxical hyperplasia: Increased number of fat cells at the treatment site. Swelling worsens over months.
  • Cryoglobulinemia: Protein and blood crystallization effects. Causes localized fat necrosis and swelling.
  • Panniculitis: Inflammation of the fatty layer under the skin. Creates swelling, nodules and warmth.
  • Delayed swelling: Sudden onset of edema several months post-treatment, possibly due to fat necrosis.
  • Hernia: Intense abdominal swelling right after CoolSculpting may indicate a hernia.

Severe, worsening or abnormal swelling warrants follow-up tests. But in most cases, post-treatment edema is mild and only lasts a few weeks.

Tips to Minimize Swelling After Your CoolSculpting Session

  • Wear compression garments. The amount of post-treatment swelling relates directly to how much compression is applied to the area. Compression shorts, wraps and garments constrict blood flow and curb inflammation. Wear them for 2 to 4 weeks after each session.
  • Apply cold packs. Icing and cooling helps constrict blood vessels and reduces swelling. Use cold packs wrapped in cloth for up to 20 minutes a few times per day. Don't apply ice directly as it can damage skin.
  • Take OTC medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can alleviate swelling-related discomfort. Your provider may recommend prescription medication as needed.
  • Massage in circular motions. Light lymphatic drainage massage guides excess fluid out of swollen areas. Avoid vigorous massages that can worsen inflammation.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking at least 64 ounces of water daily flushes out fluids responsible for edema. Avoid alcohol, which promotes water retention.
  • Move your body lightly. Light walking, stretching, and gentle yoga help stimulate lymph and blood flow. But avoid strenuous workouts and exertion during the swelling phase.
  • Consider supplements. Options like bromelain, rutin or arnica may assist with post-procedure healing and swelling. But consult your doctor first.
  • Eat a balanced diet. An anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants like leafy greens, fatty fish and berries helps minimize swelling. Avoid salt, refined carbs and sugar.
  • Get adequate rest. Your body heals best when well-rested, so sleep at least 7 to 8 hours nightly after treatment.
  • Remain patient. Swelling will subside with time as your body metabolizes damaged fat cells. Trust the process.

When Will I See My CoolSculpting Results After the Swelling Resolves? - turn this into a table

It takes about 2 to 4 months after your final CoolSculpting session to see your full results. That’s because it takes that long for your body to naturally clear away the dead, frozen fat cells. Until that waste is eliminated, lingering swelling obscures your true fat reduction.

Here’s a general CoolSculpting swelling and results timeline:

Time After TreatmentWhat Happens
1-7 daysSwelling peaks
1-2 weeksSwelling begins decreasing
1 monthMost visible swelling gone, subtle fat reduction visible
2 monthsSwelling minimal, 60-70% of total results visible
3-4 monthsMaximum fat reduction achieved

So be patient! With swollen areas, it’s hard to gauge your progress accurately. 

Trust that those treated bulges will look leaner and slimmer a few months post-treatment after all the swelling has resolved.

In a 2010 clinical study on chin CoolSculpting published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, patients saw an average fat reduction of 20% at the three month mark. Results peaked at around 23% to 25% fat loss by months 4 and 6.

Factors like your age, gender, diet, and genetics impact results too. Men may see faster results than women since they have higher levels of the enzyme responsible for fat cell breakdown.

Can I Get More Dramatic Fat Reduction With Additional CoolSculpting Sessions?

While one round delivers noticeable slimming, many patients opt for additional treatments to enhance results. You’ll need to wait at least 45 days in between sessions for swelling to resolve.

Here are some benefits of multiple CoolSculpting cycles:

  • Treat alternate body zones: Focus on any stubborn spots that need more reshaping.
  • Touch up same zones: Further reduce fat in areas you want to slim down more.
  • Allow for greater overall fat reduction: With each cycle, up to 20% to 25% of treated fat cells are eliminated permanently.
  • Provide longer-lasting results: More treatments means longer-lasting fat cell removal from those areas.
  • Accentuate muscle definition: Removing additional fat layers reveals underlying muscles.
  • Achieve faster response: Your body discards frozen fat faster with repeat procedures.

But be aware additional swelling accompanies each new round of treatment. Commit to the full four-month timeline post-treatment to truly see your body’s enhanced contours.

Who Are the Best Candidates for CoolSculpting?

If you’re wondering if you’re a candidate for CoolSculpting to address specific fat pockets, the best next step is to schedule an in-person consultation.

An experienced provider will discuss your goals and concerns, perform an exam, and determine if CoolSculpting is suitable for your body and problem areas.

In general, ideal candidates for CoolSculpting include:

  • Adults with small, localized fat bulges they want reduced such as belly pooches, love handles, inner thighs, double chin, etc.
  • People who are near their ideal body weight but have stubborn fatty areas
  • Healthy individuals who want a non-invasive alternative to liposuction for fat reduction
  • Patients looking to sculpt and tighten certain body zones without surgery, downtime, risks, or significant cost

As long as you do not have any health conditions exacerbated by cold exposure, are not significantly overweight, and have reasonable expectations for modest fat reduction, you can likely benefit from CoolSculpting.

The Takeaway

coolsculpting procedure

No one wants to still feel bloated weeks after a slimming procedure like CoolSculpting. But try to focus on the big picture. Post-treatment swelling is a side effect that paves the way for your smoother, leaner contours.

Mild to moderate swelling is perfectly normal in the weeks following CoolSculpting. With diligent at-home care, compression, rest, massage, and lymphatic support, you can minimize discomfort and speed up recovery.

While swelling runs its course, remember your body is hard at work eliminating treated fat cells. So focus on the exciting end results to come! With a little patience, you’ll start to reveal your leaner and more sculpted figure.

When it comes to eliminating stubborn fat safely and effectively, trust and experience matter. The board-certified CoolSculpting specialists at NJ Center for CoolSculpting have transformed thousands of bodies for many years. Their expertise ensures you receive the tailored treatment and support needed to achieve your goals. Contact NJ Center for CoolSculpting today to start your body contouring journey.

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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