Cellulite is never a desired body feature, but for some sufferers it can actually be painful. This most often occurs in people who are overweight. Women most often see cellulite on the buttocks, hips and thighs. Men will more often have it on the abdomen or neck. Cellulite is a common problem, but not everyone will end up with painful cellulite. A significant lifestyle change may be needed to address the problem.
For some people, painful cellulite means tenderness when an area with cellulite is touched. Others report a dull ache in areas with cellulite. Pain can occur for more people when they sit or lay in certain positions, or when they move certain ways. Painful cellulite manifests when the fat cells that the cellulite consists of bunch together, putting pressure against a person’s skin. Cellulite, in general, originates from fibrous connective cords that attach skin to underlying muscle, according to the Mayo Clinic. These cords connect skin to deeper structures, and a person’s fat lies in between. As fat cells accumulate, they push up on the skin, even as the cords pull down. The result is the classic orange-peel appearance of cellulite.
Painful cellulite can occur at the stage 3 level of cellulite based on the Nurnberger-Muller scale, which was developed by doctors seeking way to distinguish between varying levels of cellulite seen on patients. At stage 3 a person has visible dimpling, both standing and lying down, and may have raised areas and nodules, according to Bass & Boney Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The other stages are as follows: Stage 0 shows no dimpling when lying down or standing, and a pinch test shows folds in skin but no visible cellulite. Stage 1 shows no dimpling when lying or standing, but skin shows cellulite when pinched. In stage 2, cellulite is only visible when standing but not when lying down.
The majority of women, at some point in life, end up with some level of cellulite. However, painful cellulite often is indicative of a person having too much fat on her body. Being overweight can lead to serious health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer, osteoarthritis and sleep apnea, according to The Obesity Society. There was a dramatic rise in the obesity rate in the 20 years leading up to 2010, and at that time some 64 percent of Americans were overweight or obese.
There are many creams, treatments and “cures” for cellulite on the market. However, people who have cellulite that is painful are advised to see a doctor as soon as possible to develop a treatment plan to improve health. Utilizing healthy diet and exercise to achieve weight loss is the most beneficial cellulite treatment, advises the Mayo Clinic, and this will also improve a person’s health. Strengthening muscles in areas of cellulite also can improve the appearance of dimpled skin.
To avoid getting to stage 3 cellulite, there is much a person can do, advises the American Skincare and Cellulite Expert Association. This includes exercising regularly, cutting consumption of carbohydrates and saturated fats, ensuring that three-fourths of the food you eat consists of vegetables, whole grains and fruits, drinking two glasses of water for each serving of coffee, alcohol or tea, reducing intake of alcohol, coffee and tea, and drinking a minimum of eight 8-oz. glasses of water daily.
Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.