Massage guns are commonly used for recovery, due to their many benefits associated with faster recovery from training. One, somewhat lesser-known benefit of massage guns is their ability to reduce cellulite. In this article we will discuss how massage guns can reduce the appearance of cellulite by increasing blood flow to the area.
In this article we will cover:
- What is cellulite?
- What causes cellulite?
- Do massage guns help to reduce cellulite?
- How to use a massage gun to reduce cellulite
What is cellulite?
Cellulite is the more common term we use for a condition called ‘lipodystrophy’. This is a harmless change in skin appearance which is most commonly found amongst females. It is usually located around the areas of the body where excess fatty tissue is stored, including the buttocks, hips and thighs.
Perhaps owing to it being located in these areas of the body, cellulite is often considered as caused by being overweight. This is however not the case.
Cellulite is not considered a medical issue; it is purely cosmetic and affects 80-90% of women.
Find out more about cellulite here.
What causes cellulite?
Cellulite is a common skin condition, though little is known about what exactly causes it.
Underneath our skin we have some tough connective tissue that holds our skin and muscle together. Underneath this, we have our normal healthy fat stores. As we age this connective tissue loses its elasticity and shrinks. In addition to this there is often a degeneration of the fat cells caused by a loss or normal blood flow (1)(2)(3). This poor blood flow can cause the fat cells underneath to break down. Added to this, the weak connective tissue allows the fat to push through. These two factors are what we believe might be the major causes of cellulite and the classic puckered appearance of skin.
Whilst anyone can have cellulite, there are factors which make some of us more susceptible to it than others, these include:
- Age: As we age, our skin loses its elasticity, allowing the appearance of cellulite to become more predominant. Furthermore, cellulite becomes more prominent in females during adolescence and around the age of menopause (4).
- Gender: Females are more likely to have cellulite, since their fat is typically distributed in the buttocks, hips and thighs (5). Moreover, the dermis (inner layer of the two main layers of our skin) in women is thinner than that in men (6), making the cellulite more visible.
- Diet: You are more likely to have cellulite if your diet is high in fats and carbohydrates (7). A well-balanced diet could help to reduce cellulite.
- Hormones: Hormones are believed to play a role in cellulite development. For example, estrogen is part of cellulite’s production process (8). Again, this can unfortunately mean that you’re more likely to have cellulite if you’re female.
- Genetic Disposition: Cellulite can be more likely to develop depending upon genetic factors such as our metabolism and circulatory levels, amongst others (9).
- Lifestyle: Lifestyle factors such as regular exercise, the avoidance of processed foods, as well as foods high in fat and refined sugars may help to limit cellulite (10).
- Weight: Though fit individuals can have cellulite, weight and muscle tone can affect its presence (11). The appearance of cellulite can be more profound with weight gain or in obese individuals (12).
- Pregnancy: As estrogen is part of the production process of cellulite, you’re more likely to develop cellulite when you’re producing more of the hormone, such as during pregnancy (13).
Do massage guns help to reduce cellulite?
Though massage guns cannot remove cellulite, they can reduce its appearance. Most of the scientific research suggests that poor blood flow is one of the major contributory factors (1)(2). There is already a large body of evidence that shows how vibration therapy increases blood flow (15). If the massage gun is applied to the area often enough, then the vibrations from the gun can increase blood flow to the desired area.
When scientists measured the effects of vibration on cellulite in a laboratory, they concluded that 40% of cases showed complete remission, 60% were downgraded in severity, and when skin was examined under a microscope, new blood vessels were observed forming. This increase in newly formed blood vessels increases blood flow and was one of the agreed reason for the reduction in cellulite (2) (3) (16). The vibration administered in one study also reduced the amount of fat under the skin and reduced the appearance of cellulite (17).
How to use a massage gun to reduce cellulite:
Treatment within the studies was commonly between 4 and 24 weeks with daily therapy administered (2)(3)(18). In some cases, when treatment was stopped the cellulite levels started to increase again (19). It is therefore recommended that daily long-term usage is likely to give the best results (16) (17) (19).
Using a massage gun to reduce cellulite is quite simple. First, you should use the massage gun to target the required area. The oscillation will help to increase blood flow and penetrate into the muscle, loosening the fat.
This should be accompanied by gently pinching the skin. This pinching will help your skin to smooth out, reducing the appearance of cellulite.
Whilst some of us are more likely to have cellulite than others, or even just more visible cellulite, there are methods for reducing it. Using a massage gun daily on the affected areas can help to reduce the appearance of cellulite(17) (19). This is a good first step, particularly when paired with regular exercise and a healthy diet (1). Try to reduce your intake of processed foods, foods high in refined sugars and high in fats.
To find out about the potential effects of foam rolling on cellulite, read this article.
1 - Alizadeh, Z., Halabchi, F., Mazaheri, R., Abolhasani, M. and Tabesh, M., 2016. Review of the Mechanisms and Effects of Noninvasive Body Contouring Devices on Cellulite and Subcutaneous Fat. International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 14(4).
2 - Pilch, W., Nastałek, M., Piotrowska, A., Czerwińska-Ledwig, O., Zuziak, R., Maciorowska, A. and Golec, J., 2019. The effects of a 4-week vibrotherapy programme on the reduction of adipose tissue in young women with cellulite - a pilot study. Rehabilitacja Medyczna, 22(4), pp.18-24.
3 - Adatto, M., Adatto-Neilson, R., Servant, J., Vester, J., Novak, P. and Krotz, A., 2010. Controlled, randomized study evaluating the effects of treating cellulite with AWT®/EPAT®. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 12(4), pp.176-182.
4 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6232550/
5 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6232550/
6 - Wanner, M., and Avram, M. (2008). An evidence-based assessment of treatments for cellulite. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 7(4), 341-345.
7 - https://health.clevelandclinic.org/hate-your-cellulite-how-to-avoid-or-minimize-it/
8 - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149465#treatment-and-removal
9 - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149465#treatment-and-removal
10 - https://health.clevelandclinic.org/hate-your-cellulite-how-to-avoid-or-minimize-it/
11 - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cellulite/symptoms-causes/syc-20354945
12 - Friedmann DP, Vick GL, Mishra V. Cellulite: a review with a focus on subcision. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:17-23. doi:10.2147/CCID.S95830
13 - Friedmann DP, Vick GL, Mishra V. Cellulite: a review with a focus on subcision. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:17-23. doi:10.2147/CCID.S95830
14 - Percival,S., Stebbings, G., Simms, D (20210 Local vibration therapy increases oxygen re-saturation rate and maintains muscle strength following exercise-induced muscle damage Journal of athletic training
15 - Weinheimer-Haus, E., Judex, S., Ennis, W. and Koh, T., 2014. Low-Intensity Vibration Improves Angiogenesis and Wound Healing in Diabetic Mice. PLoS ONE, 9(3), p.e91355.
16 - Savoia, A., Landi, S., Vannini, F. and Baldi, A., 2013. Low-Level Laser Therapy and Vibration Therapy for the Treatment of Localized Adiposity and Fibrous Cellulite. Dermatology and Therapy, 3(1), pp.41-52..
17 - Pilch, W., Czerwińska-Ledwig, O., Chitryniewicz-Rostek, J., Nastałek, M., Krężałek, P., Jędrychowska, D., Totko-Borkusewicz, N., Uher, I., Kaško, D., Tota, Ł., Tyka, A., Tyka, A. and Piotrowska, A., 2019. The Impact of Vibration Therapy Interventions on Skin Condition and Skin Temperature Changes in Young Women with Lipodystrophy: A Pilot Study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2019, pp.1-9.
18 - Sadowski, T., Bielfeldt, S., Wilhelm, K., Sukopp, S. and Gordon, C., 2020. Objective and subjective reduction of cellulite volume using a localized vibrational massage device in a 24‐week randomized intra‐individual single‐blind regression study. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 42(3), pp.277-288.
19 - Chieregato, F., Da Silva, C., Carvalho, T., Grecco, C., Moreira, R., Guidi, R., Girola, L., De Souza, J. and Modena, D., 2020. Effects of multi-directional oscillatory vibration in the treatment of cellulite and body remodeling. Fisioterapia Brasil, 21(1), pp.77-85