I’m a huge fan of instant gratification and rarely undertake anything without the promise of an immediate return, which come to think of it, is probably why I don’t go to the gym. It’s also the reason why a year ago, I found myself clamped to two throbbing machines, one sucking down on each arm, with the sole purpose of blasting my fat cells with temperatures of -7°C to -10°C.
Fat-freezing, or cryolipolysis, sounded like a great idea at the time: a quick-fix (and when I say 'quick', I mean it; the treatment takes 45minutes) way to eliminate fat from stubborn areas forever. Talk about immediate return. And all I had to do was lie back and watch Orange Is The New Black reruns on the swanky Harley Street clinic’s widescreen. Naturally, I signed up to have my entire body blasted, more specifically, my arms, hips, thighs, stomach and potentially, neck.
I was promised a “pain-free” treatment, after which I could return to work and get on with my jolly day. After a brief explanation of the treatment, my therapist lovingly positioned the two machines on the flabbiest parts of my arms, while explaining that I may feel some discomfort as the area is numbing. Hmm. I’ve played guinea pig to enough cosmetic treatments to know that the term “discomfort” should never be taken lightly. Too late to turn back, I switched on the TV and relaxed into the bed. As she was leaving, the therapist passed me a call button, “in case I needed anything”.
A few minutes into the treatment, everything was going well. My arms were cold, freezing actually, but it didn’t feel too unpleasant. But about 10 minutes in, something started to happen. The skin started to feel like it was burning, and my muscles felt like they had transformed into shards of ice cold glass, stabbing my burning skin from the inside out. It was excruciating. It was the most all-consuming pain I have ever experienced in my life. And I’ve had a lot of pain - lasers, piercings, kidney infections, but nothing compared to this.
My legs were writhing around, the rest of me physically unable to move as I was being clamped down. My entire mind was so focused on the pain, I couldn’t talk, or cry. I hoped it would pass quickly and I would become blissfully numb. It didn’t. At the 15th minute, I was furiously pushing the call button. The therapist came in. I was sweating by this point but managed to gasp “it’s so painful”. She looked concerned, confused even, but assured me that was everything was OK. She gave me some dark chocolate, insisting the sugar would help. I inhaled it like it was the elixir to eternal life. In hindsight, I think she just didn’t have anything else to give me.
Somehow, I finished the full 45 minutes of freezing. Most people report that the only painful part of cryolipolysis is the massage afterwards, where the therapist physically kneads the deaf frozen fat cells away so they can be picked up by the lymphatic system and naturally expelled from the body. To me, however, this felt like a swoon-worthy tickle compared to the previous pain.
I left the clinic pretty promptly. In fact, I practically fled. I was in shock, and my arms were throbbing. What had just happened? Back at the office, I relaid the whole experience in forensic detail, and was met with disbelief and dropped jaws. My arms hurt for a week. They were painful even to the slightest touch and felt bruised and tingly, like I had permanent pins and needles. Little did I know that the pins and needles would take two months to subside in my left arm and I wouldn't regain feeling in my elbow for another three.
Needless to say, I cancelled the remainder of my treatments. When I fed my experience back to clinic, they said that some people do have extreme reactions to the treatment but it was extremely rare. I saw my doctor, who said that the pins and needles would most likely be due to temporary sensory nerve damage.
I researched the procedure to determine whether this was more common than I was led to believe. While there are plenty of clinical studies proving the treatment provides effective fat-loss, there are very few available focusing on the side effects and complications. The little research I did find reported mild to moderate pain and a very low chance of sensory nerve damage that normally resolved after three weeks. But then, I took to patient forums. I read accounts from hundreds of people reporting extreme pain and lengthy recoveries. One woman wrote how her pain, three weeks after treatment, was still disturbing her sleep, while another reported that she was taking strong painkillers on a permanent rotation to get by. Everyone was asking why no one ever mentions it.
The gym is looking a whole lot more appealing to me now.
Taken from Allure. Read the original here.
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