Cellulite is a very common skin condition that causes dimpling and bumps on the thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and arms. It affects over 90% of women and 10% of men at some point in their lives. While harmless, many people seek treatment to improve the appearance of cellulite. Acoustic wave therapy (AWT) is one new treatment that has gained popularity for improving the look of cellulite. But does it really work? Here is an in-depth review of the evidence on acoustic wave therapy for cellulite.
What Is Acoustic Wave Therapy?
Acoustic wave therapy, also called shock wave therapy or radial shock wave therapy, uses pulses of acoustic energy or radial pressure waves directed at the skin to treat cellulite. A handheld device with a smooth applicator is placed directly on the skin and transmits focused acoustic waves that penetrate deep into the tissue.<img src=”https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/5a7f8b5f8dd041552c19b783/1588356460392-1O9R3L6W4OYKOHWHP44S/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kLkXF2pIyv_F2eUT9F60jBl7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z4YTzHvnKhyp6Da-NYroOW3ZGjoBKy3azqku80C789l0iyqMbMesKd95J-X4EagrgU9L3Sa3U8cogeb0tjXbfawd0urKshkc5MgdBeJmALQKw/Shockwave+Therapy+probe+cellulite.jpg?format=2500w” width=”400″> The acoustic waves are thought to work by:
- Breaking up fibrous bands under the skin that cause the dimpled appearance of cellulite
- Stimulating blood circulation and lymphatic drainage to remove waste products
- Increasing collagen production for firmer, smoother skin
Multiple sessions are usually needed to see results, with treatments done 1-2 times per week for 6-12 weeks.
Does Acoustic Wave Therapy Improve Cellulite? The Research
There have been several small studies investigating acoustic wave therapy for cellulite. Here is a summary of the research so far:
Study 1: 30 Women Treated on Thighs and Buttocks
- Methods: 30 women with moderate to severe cellulite underwent 12 AWT sessions over 6 weeks targeting the thighs and buttocks. Assessments were done before and 12 weeks after the last treatment.
- Results: Cellulite severity decreased significantly. Hip circumference reduced by 3-5cm on average. MRI scans showed 25% decrease in fat layer thickness. Over 90% were satisfied and would repeat treatment.
Study 2: 15 Women Treated on Abdomen and Thighs
- Methods: 15 women received 8 AWT sessions over 4 weeks on the abdomen and thighs. Assessments were done before and 4 weeks after the last session.
- Results: 100% of patients reported visible reduction in cellulite. Average circumferences decreased by 3.4cm on the abdomen and 2.1cm on thighs. No side effects were observed.
Study 3: 10 Women Treated on Thighs
- Methods: 10 women underwent 12 AWT sessions over 6 weeks on the thighs. Assessments were done at baseline, 6 weeks, and 6 months.
- Results: At 6 months, 70% had improvement of at least one cellulite grade. Average circumference reduced by 3.2cm. Patient satisfaction was high.
While most studies are small, the consistent results across multiple trials suggest that acoustic wave therapy can significantly improve the appearance of cellulite for most patients. Larger studies are still needed to confirm effectiveness.
Before and After Photos
Here are some before and after photos of acoustic wave therapy for cellulite that show the improvement in skin dimpling:<img src=”https://dermanova.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/before-after-cellulite-treatment-dermanova-melbourne-clinic-768×1152.jpg” width=”400″> <img src=”https://www.drritamarolf.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/before-after-acoustic-wave-therapy-cellulite-dr-rita-rolf-fort-myers-naples-1024×683.jpg” width=”400″> As you can see, the after photos show noticeably smoother skin with less dimpling and indentation. While not a complete cure, the cellulite is clearly less visible following a course of acoustic wave therapy.
Pros and Cons of Acoustic Wave Therapy for Cellulite
- Non-invasive, no surgery or downtime required
- Can improve cellulite appearance by one or two grades
- Also reduces localized fat deposits and smoothes skin
- No major side effects reported
- Does not damage the skin surface
- Can be used on all body areas with cellulite
- Multiple treatments needed for best results
- Results are gradual and take weeks to become noticeable
- Expensive compared to creams or massage
- Effects may not be permanent – maintenance sessions may be required
- Not covered by insurance, so out-of-pocket costs apply
Overall, acoustic wave therapy is one of the better treatment options for reducing the appearance of cellulite available today. While not perfect, it can produce moderate improvements in many cases with minimal risk.
What to Expect During Acoustic Wave Therapy Sessions
Here is a step-by-step overview of what to expect during a typical acoustic wave therapy session:
- The treatment area – usually the thighs, buttocks, or abdomen – is cleaned and a conductive gel is applied.
- The technician then glides the handheld applicator over the treatment area, delivering pulses of acoustic waves. This feels like a prickling, thumping sensation.
- The intensity is adjusted based on your feedback. Most people do not find the treatment painful, but higher intensities can cause discomfort.
- Typical treatment time is 30-40 minutes per area. The gel and applicator are cleaned off at the end.
- No recovery time is required. You can resume normal activities immediately.
- Initially treatments are done 1-2 times per week. The number needed ranges from 6-12 based on severity.
- Results are gradual, but you may notice some improvement in skin texture and cellulite severity after 4-6 sessions. Maximum results emerge 2-3 months after the final treatment.
Acoustic wave therapy is easy to tolerate with minimal discomfort for most people. Be sure to communicate with your technician about the intensity level.
Cost of Acoustic Wave Therapy for Cellulite
The cost of acoustic wave therapy for cellulite depends on your location and the number of treatments needed. On average you can expect to pay:
- $100 – $250 per session
- Total cost of $1000 – $3000 for a full course of 6-12 treatments
Since it is considered cosmetic, acoustic wave therapy is not covered by insurance. Payment plans or packaged discounts are sometimes offered to make treatments more affordable.Compared to other cellulite treatments like VelaShape or Endermologie, acoustic wave therapy is more expensive on a per session basis. However, it also produces better, longer lasting results for many people.
Is Acoustic Wave Therapy Worth It for Cellulite?
Whether acoustic wave therapy is “worth it” depends on your budget, expectations, and how noticeable or bothersome your cellulite is to you.For those with only mild cellulite, the cost may not justify the subtle improvements. But if your cellulite is more severe and impacting your self-esteem, the improvements in appearance can be very worthwhile.Acoustic wave therapy is one of the top non-invasive options available for reducing cellulite dimpling and smooth skin imperfections. While not a cure-all, it can significantly improve the look of your skin for several months when done properly.
How to Get the Best Results from Acoustic Wave Therapy
Here are some tips to get the most out of your acoustic wave therapy treatments and maximize your results:
- Stick to the recommended treatment schedule. Getting treatments 1-2 times per week is important for gradual improvement. Skipping or delaying sessions reduces effectiveness.
- Combine with massage or foam rolling. Increase blood flow and drainage between sessions with massage or self-myofascial release. This enhances the breakdown of fat and toxins.
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and exercise regularly to keep your circulation and collagen production optimal.
- Avoid too much sun exposure. Excess sun can damage collagen and elastin, reducing your skin’s ability to improve. Use sunscreen if spending time outdoors.
- Manage stress. High stress levels increase inflammation and fluid retention, making cellulite worse. Try relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, or massage.
- Be patient. Remember that acoustic wave therapy improves cellulite gradually over weeks and months. Stick with it to see the full benefits.
With consistent treatments and a healthy lifestyle, acoustic wave therapy can significantly improve the appearance of cellulite for most people.
Home Use Acoustic Wave Therapy Devices
While professional treatments offer the best results, there are also some FDA-cleared acoustic wave therapy devices available for home use. These include:
These smaller, handheld devices can be used daily or every other day for 20-40 minutes per area. They may help prolong the results from professional acoustic wave therapy. But outcomes are less dramatic than clinic treatments.
The Bottom Line on Acoustic Wave Therapy for Cellulite:
- Non-invasive and safe alternative to surgery
- Clinically proven to reduce dimpling, smooth skin
- Gradual improvement over 4-6 weeks
- Multiple sessions required for best results
- Works best for mild to moderate cellulite
- Effects last about 6 months, maintenance recommended
- Not a complete cure, but can improve appearance
- Works better than creams and massage alone
While pricey, acoustic wave therapy is one of the most effective non-surgical cellulite treatments available today. For those bothered by mild to moderate cellulite, it can produce visible improvements in skin texture and smoothness. Results are gradual but can be long-lasting when combined with healthy lifestyle habits.