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Cellulite Massage: Can Massage Actually Reduce Cellulite?

Question:

My friends and I booked a beach vacation back in the winter. We were trying on bikinis recently and I became aware of just how dimply my rear and thighs are with cellulite. I’ve been working out more lately, and I’m proud of how my body looks – but this cellulite has got to go! So I started looking at various treatments and I see “cellulite massage” advertised everywhere. Can massage actually reduce cellulite? 

Answer:

Cellulite can be so frustrating. You put in all those hours in the gym to get that perfect beach body, and yet that cellulite remains, taunting you. Even more frustrating, the medical profession really has no definitive explanation for what causes it. And yet, the condition affects 85 to 98 percent of all women.[1]

With so many women out there trying to get rid of cellulite, it stands to reason that you’ll find a lot of products and services marketed to those women that promise to do just that. And yet, a research review published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy concluded that there are “no truly effective treatments for cellulite.”[2] Effective treatment would get rid of cellulite permanently – and that doesn’t exist. However, there are plenty of treatments out there that can “reduce the appearance” of cellulite – and massage is one of them.

One study actually quantified the effectiveness of massage by using ultrasound technology to evaluate skin changes with of women who had massage therapy three times a week for three months. The results? Significant smoothing of the areas previously dimpled with cellulite. This study used an electro-mechanical handheld massage device rather than massage by a certified and experienced massage therapist.[3]

The same study also found that the results were not permanent. When the women stopped massaging the affected areas, their cellulite reappeared. Essentially, massage does not remove your cellulite, it simply temporarily reduces the dimpled appearance.[4] But if you’re talking about getting ready for your beach holiday, that may be all you need.

Massage works by promoting blood circulation to the affected area. It doesn’t remove cellulite. However, it does reduce the appearance of cellulite, and may even prevent more cellulite from forming – provided you continue your massage therapy treatments. Generally, booking twice-weekly sessions for at least six weeks will significantly reduce the appearance of cellulite.[5]

Basic Swedish massage typically works, but you might have better results with deep-tissue or lymphatic massage. Deep-tissue massage alters connective tissue, which may in turn decrease the production of cellulite.[6]

References:

[1] Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy: “Cellulite: A Review of Its Physiology and Treatment,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16020201 

[2] Id.

[3] Skin Research and Technology: “The Effectiveness of Massage Treatment on Cellulite as Monitored by Ultrasound Imaging,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27333491

[4] University of New Mexico: “Cellulite: A Review of Its Anatomy, Physiology and Treatment,” http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/cellulite2.html

[5] Dermanities: “How Often Should You Massage Cellulite?” http://www.dermanities.com/often-massage-cellulite

[6] University of New Mexico: “Cellulite: A Review of Its Anatomy, Physiology and Treatment,” http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/cellulite2.html

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