Anti-cellulite Treatments: Machines
Part Three

When I was a teen-ager, my family was witness to a strange ritual that went on for a couple of months. Every night Miguela, our labandera, would enter my room with a rolling pin in her hand. No, we were not making pies in my bedroom. I had read somewhere that you could smash your fat cells to smithereens if you applied enough manual pressure. I figured a rolling pin was the perfect tool and since Miguela was the most husky among our household helpers, she was chosen to do the job.

I never asked her opinion but I'm sure she must have thought I was some kind of masochist especially when all I got for her muscular efforts were bruises on both my thighs. Little did I know that my low-tech attempt at cellulite eradication would one day go high-tech with the invention of Endermologie, a machine that combines a rolling and suction technique that claims to smoothen out cellulite-riddled thighs. It's a good thing I did not know about the suction part because Miguela would have been armed not only with a rolling pin but also the vacuum cleaner. I will never live down that embarrassing episode in my life. My family still laughs about it up to now.

Endermologie and other brands are the only type of machines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to "temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite". It was developed in France in the late 1970's to treat burns and scars but it was observed that it also improved the appearance of cellulite as well as skin texture and body contour.

The machine delivers a deep massage by pulling the skin upward with a suction device where it is kneaded between two mechanical rollers. The exact reason why Endermologie works is not quite clear. The most plausible theory is that it stretches the fibrous bands of vertically arranged connective tissue that surrounds the fat cells. Once the tension of the bands is lessened, the fat is not as obvious and the dimpled appearance improves.

You need at least 14 sessions of 35 to 45 minutes each to see results. Some people need more while others need less. Then, because the results are temporary, you need one maintenance session a month or every few months for life, otherwise, the cellulite returns. Presumably, the connective tissue becomes tight and fibrous again.

Endermologie is not cheap at a cost of P40,000 to P60,000 for the initial sessions and about P2,000 to P5,000 for the maintenance sessions but it is one of the few viable treatments for cellulite. The FDA would not have approved it otherwise. Unfortunately, it does not work for everyone. That's why there is research confirming the effectiveness of Endermologie and there is also research that finds the opposite.

Here is a brief summary of research for and against Endermologie:
A 1997 study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal of 22 women between the ages of 24 and 48 found that all but one of the participants experienced a reduction in thigh size.

A 1998 study published in the same journal involved 85 women between the ages of 21 and 61. 46 participants finished 7 sessions and experienced an over-all reduction of half an inch while the 39 participants who finished 14 sessions had a reduction of three-fourths of an inch.

A 1997 study published in the Skin Research and Technology Journal concluded that there was significant smoothening of skin.

A 1999 study published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal with 35 women treated one thigh with Endermologie to compare the difference with the untreated thigh. The researchers reported that only 10 of the women felt their cellulite appearance improved. More objective tests using ultrasound could find no difference in thigh fat depth measurement between the treated and untreated leg.

The best candidates are less than thirty pounds overweight, in generally good health, with good skin tone, are motivated to exercise and diet, and have realistic expectations. In the end, in spite of FDA approval, the decision to do Endermologie depends entirely on you. Many women I have talked to would be willing to try the technique since it doesn't involve surgery or oral medication but are indecisive because of the high price.

Manual massage and the use of loofahs and brushes have been around for years as anti-cellulite treatments. There have been no scientific studies to prove that they work. According to experts, they produce some swelling at the skin surface to briefly improve skin texture. If a masseuse can deliver a hard enough massage to stretch the fibrous bands, then manual massage could possibly have the same effect as Endermologie. However, it would be difficult to get the same intensity each time and over each area of the buttocks and thighs because the massage is being done by hand.

External ultrasound is another type of machine that is touted as an effective treatment against cellulite but it does not have any scientific research to back it up. Physical therapists use low intensity ultrasound machines (1 to 1.5 watts per square centimeter) to heat up and hasten healing in sore muscles while plastic or dermatological surgeons use high intensity versions (3 watts per square centimeter) to burst fat cells in preparation for liposuction.

There are claims being made that the ultrasound machines can be used to destroy fat cells but without having to suck them out through liposuction. What happens to the ruptured fat cells? Proponents say your body will get rid of it through its usual waste removal systems. Critics counter that if the method works, it will probably only do so for small areas like under the chin. Other concerns are that the technician cannot control the depth of penetration of the ultrasonic waves and may destroy other body tissues.

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