Wednesday 12th October, 2022

How to massage your cellulite: the scientific alternative

Cellulite before and after 2
Can you really do this with massage: yes, but not if you follow the advice of most marketers

It is certainly possible to reduce cellulite using self massage. However, a lot of self massages only give very temporary short term improvement, or are based on bogus claims made to sell you expensive but worthless products. In this article we will show you step by step how to apply the massage that has actually been shown to give long term changes, including reducing the size of parts affected by cellulite.

What to expect: real benefits vs bogus claims

There are a lot of claims made about improving cellulite with massage. Based on the scientific understanding of cellulite and the relevant clinical trials we advise the following.

Temporary improvements vs lasting changes

There are many forms of massage that temporarily improve the appearance of cellulite by doing things such as temporarily changing the amount of fluid in the tissues. However these have no long term effects on the problem fat cells or fat stores, so all improvements will be lost withing a short time.

The only way to get lasting results

Science has found that the main cause of cellulite is a reduction of circulation in those tissues (1). This means that your body cannot easily access the fat stores from those tissues when it needs energy. Instead your body just uses fat from parts of your body it can easily access. The way the clinical trials successfully used massage was by using repeated applications over time to improve circulation in the cellulite tissues, allowing the excess fat to be gradually be reabsorbed.

The bogus claims

Marketing material and advice on massage for cellulite is full of bogus and misleading claims, usually designed to sell you some overpriced and dubious treatment or product.

Claims based upon temporary improvements

As discussed above, there are a lot of massages and massage products that claim to improve cellulite. Technically some are are true, but the improvement is only temporary. How do you know which are? That’s simple. Science tells us that the only way massage can improve cellulite long term is by continued applications that improve circulation. Everything else is either temporary or bogus.

Blatantly bogus claims

Reading through a selection of websites on massage for cellulite we saw a collection of totally bogus claims. We list them here so you can recognise them as such.

Cellulite and normal skin
The fat cells are strongly encased in connective tissue pouches, so claims that they are spread, dispersed or smashed up are totally bogus
  • massage spreads cellulite out
  • massage flattens out cellulite
  • massage (and massage guns) break up fat cells so they can be reabsorbed
  • massage guns can help obese people by reducing the excess fat under their skin
  • massage guns redistribute fat cells

Reducing total weight loss

It is important to note that even when used correctly massage will only allow your body to re-absorb fat more normally (rather than only from the areas with good circulations). It will not change the total amount of fat.

The best massage for your cellulite

What the trials tell us

The results of many clinical trials (see summary below) tell us that with the correct use of massage you should get long term improvements and even a reduction in the size of the affected areas. Let’s look at what that correct use is.

Use massage to increase circulation in the affected areas

We understand that the main cause of cellulite is a reduction in circulation in the affected tissues not allowing fat stores to effectively be re-absorbed. The scientists conducting the trials used a variety of types of massage including three types of conventional massage and several ways of applying vibration massage. These are all known to improve circulation, and all helped.

You will need repeated applications over time

Your body will need considerable time to re-absorb the unwanted fat stores, but the increased circulation only lasts for a limited time after each massage. Therefore you will need a large number of therapy applications over time. As a guide, one trial used daily applications of 30-60 minutes for three weeks. Likely after that you would need continuing regular applications for further improvements and/or maintenance. Note: in our practical section (below) we show how you can effectively use just 5 minute applications.

The practical implications

If you’ve got plenty of time and money you can find a good professional massage therapist and he or she will probably do a fantastic job. If not, in the next section we will use the science of massage therapy to find the easiest and best self applied therapies to increase your circulation and help your body absorb the excess fat.

Your self massage options

In the trials they used both conventional massage and vibration massage. Vibration is by far the best self massage option, but we’ll briefly mention the conventional massage options first so you are aware of them.

Conventional self massage options

Foam rollers

In our article Do foam rollers work we discuss that using foam rollers is no where near as effective as massage by a professional therapist. They are also difficult to use, often painful, and 27 years in practice as a chiropractor saw a lot of people hurt themselves using them.

Cellulite tools
Don't bother with this sort of thing
“Cellulite tools”

There are a variety of self massage tools marketed as help for cellulite. As you can see with names like “sculpting” and “blaster” they are implying that they do things we’ve mentioned are completely bogus. Further, they would be extremely poor at giving a self massage to increase circulation.

Vibration massage options

Vibrations have been scientifically proven to increase circulation (2). Further, they are extremely easy to apply and usually very safe. This makes vibration massage ideal as self applied massage for cellulite. In the trials they used several types of equipment. We’ll show you these, as you may already have something and they are useful. Alternatively, you can skip straight to your best option where we show you the ideal equipment and how to use it.

Vibration platform
Vibration platforms may help exercising, but are not recommended for this sort of cellulite therapy
Vibration platforms

Vibration platforms are usually something you stand on, especially when exercising. However, in the trials they used them to directly apply vibration (eg. sitting on them). They helped a bit in the trials, but are not really designed to directly apply vibrations so things like the vibration frequency and how far the plate moves up and down are not optimised. Also, there are many parts of your body that would be difficult to directly massage with a vibration plate.

How vibration plates help cellulite

These plates are marketed to help cellulite. Just standing on them will do very little, but if you exercise on them your body tends to work harder and burn more calories. This helps reduce your total amount of body fat rather than target cellulite.

Massage chair used in trial
The chair massager used in one of the clinical trials (3)
Chair or cushion massagers

These were successfully used in some of clinical trials and are very easy to use. You could easily sit relaxed having a massage while watching your favourite TV show. The down side is that the vibrations don’t tend to be the best for therapeutic applications like increasing circulations, and it can be difficult to directly apply the massage to some part of your body. For example, if you have a massage chair how do you massage the inside or the front of your thighs?

Using a massage gun on thigh
Massage guns pummel rather than vibrate tissues, and are associated with a host of bogus claims
Massage guns

Although heavily marketed, massage guns are not recommend for cellulite for these for two main reasons.

  1. It is the vibration the helps increase circulation. As discussed in the our article Percussion vs Vibration massage guns are designed to pummel the muscles rather than transmit therapeutic vibration.
  2. Most of the bogus claims such as breaking down fat cells so they could be reabsorbed come from massage gun marketing material.
Massage wands

One trial used a tool marketed as a “massage wand”. They look very much like the gimmicky consumer massagers that do not deliver anywhere near effective massage, and we could not even find any vibration specifications on their website. These are not recommended.

Your ideal equipment and how to use it

  1. The equipment
  2. How to apply the massage

The equipment

From the science of vibration massage we know that the most effective way to apply vibration is by using a tool that applies vibrations directly to the tissues. We also know that the best frequency to increase circulation is around 50 hz (cycles per second). Therefore, you will need a professional standard vibration massager capable of delivering 50 hz vibrations.

Unfortunately a lot of massagers marketed to consumers are very poor, and as discussed percussion massagers (massage guns) are not appropriate and potentially unsafe. To help you choose an effective machine we have a separate article How to choose a massager. However, to help you out we’ll illustrate a few machines we believe would do a good job, then show you the machines we developed for the purpose.

The Ultimate Quad Head Massager being used
Our Ultimate Quad Head Massager is easy to use and gives strong quality therapeutic vibrations over a reasonable sized area.

The ideal solution

We make two hand held massagers that are easy to use and give excellent therapeutic vibrations. These are our General Purpose Massager and our Ultimate Quad Head Massager. Of these the quad head massager would be the ideal choice for cellulite massage.

  1. It is very easy to use
  2. It gives excellent quality therapeutic vibration
  3. With four strong vibration heads it can give quality massage to a larger area at a time, making it much quicker to treat all the areas that need it.

How to apply the massage

We have a few hints and precaution in our article How to use a hand held massager, but basically it is extremely simple. You just set the machine at about 50 hz and place the head of the massager on the part you wish to massage. The machine does all the work. There is no need to press in or rub as you would for conventional massage.

When and how long to apply the massage for

In the trials longer applications such as 30-60 minutes were used. However, it would be much more effective to uses several applications a day of a few minutes each. The reason we say this is that studies show that when 50 hz vibration is applied the circulation will rise to the much higher level in about two minutes (2). When the vibration stops circulation gradually decreases back to normal over about 30 minutes. Therefore, each time you apply the massager for a few minutes you will get 30 minutes of residual increase in circulation.

Dr Graeme's comments

Extra development

In an earlier article I commented that those conducting the trials had used the less effective equipment market for cellulite, and that far better results would be had choosing equipment base on on the science of therapeutic vibrations. One of the researchers actually contacted me, and they are now evaluating our machines for future research.


DrGraeme massagers were originally built by Dr Graeme for use in his clinic, and to prescribe to his patients for additional self use at home. Now these are used by colleagues and other professionals for similar purposes. If you are a professional and wish to know more about this therapy, or possibly get a sample massager to trial please check out our practitioner page.

Appendix: summary of clinical trials using massage or vibration massage to treat cellulite

NOTE: You may need to scroll the table below left/right for more information


What they did




30 or 60 minutes vibration daily for three weeks

Reduced grading+ of cellulite


Used 17.5-46 Hz vibrations for 30 or 60 minutes a day for three weeks

Reduced grading+ of cellulite. Increased skin temperature

Sub optimal vibrations


15x 30 or 60 minutes locally applied 18-39 Hz

Reduced grading+ of cellulite, increased skin temperature

Sub optimal vibrations


24 weeks of using hand held vibration wand.

Visual improvement

Used a device marketed as a cellulite wand, but no where near a serious therapeutic device.


15 applications of 18-39 Hz vibration over three weeks.

Decreased symptoms. Increased skin hydration.

Sub optimal vibrations


4 weeks of 17.5-46.5 Hz vibrations

Decreased measurements for thighs, hips and waist

Vibrations only 0.5mm so extremely poor penetration


10 sessions of whole body vibration

Increased skin temperature


Tested three types of conventional massage++

All gave a reduction in sub-cutaneous fat

Professionals would likely combine all three for excellent results

+ Please see gradings below (reduced grading is better):
++ Types were i) Conventional massage, ii) manual lymphatic drainage, and iii) Connective tissue manipulations.

Grading cellulite

For research or description cellulite is graded as follows. Where the grades were reduced in the trials that means that the cellulite improved.

  • Grade 1 – you can’t see cellulite with the naked eye, but the changes on your skin are still going on microscopically.
  • Grade 2 – the skin shows paleness, lower temperature, and decreased elasticity after compression or muscular contraction. There is no visible “orange peel” roughness to the skin.
  • Grade 3 – this is when the lumps and bumps are starting to make themselves visible. Thin granulations in the deep levels of the skin can be detected by palpitation. All Grade 2 signs are present.
  • Grade 4 – more visible, palpable, and painful lumps are present, adhering to deep structures in the skin. The skin has a noticeable dimpled, wavy appearance. Additional microscopic changes are detected. Grade 4 signs are present, and cellulite is constantly visible to the patient.


  1. Piotrowska A, Czerwińska-Ledwig O, Stefańska M, Pałka T, Maciejczyk M, Bujas P, et al. Changes in Skin Microcirculation Resulting from Vibration Therapy in Women with Cellulite. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(6).
  2. Maloney-Hinds C, Petrofsky JS, Zimmerman G. The effect of 30 Hz vs. 50 Hz passive vibration and duration of vibration on skin blood flow in the arm. Med Sci Monit. 2008;14(3):CR112-6.
  3. Piotrowska A, Czerwińska-Ledwig O. Effect of local vibrotherapy in sitting or lying position in two time protocols on the cellulite grade and change of body circumferences in women with cellulite. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2022;21(5):2130–9.
  4. Pilch W, Czerwińska-Ledwig O, Chitryniewicz-Rostek J, Nastałek M, Krȩzałek P, Jȩdrychowska D, et al. The Impact of Vibration Therapy Interventions on Skin Condition and Skin Temperature Changes in Young Women with Lipodystrophy: A Pilot Study. Evidence-based Complement Altern Med. 2019;2019.
  5. Sadowski T, Bielfeldt S, Wilhelm KP, Sukopp S, Gordon C. Objective and subjective reduction of cellulite volume using a localized vibrational massage device in a 24-week randomized intra-individual single-blind regression study. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2020;42(3):277–88.
  6. Piotrowska A, Czerwińska-Ledwig O. Effect of Three-Week Vibrotherapy on Selected Skin Parameters of Thighs and Buttocks in Women with Cellulite. Cosmetics. 2022;9(1).
  7. Pilch W, Nastałek M, Piotrowska A, Czerwińska-Ledwig O, Zuziak R, Maciorowska A, et al. The effects of a 4-week vibrotherapy programme on the reduction of adipose tissue in young women with cellulite – a pilot study. Rehabil Med. 2018;22(4):18–24.
  8. Cristovam DN, Botelho S, Andrade MF, Marques J, Sousa L. Whole-body vibration in the reduction of the cellulite. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2019;21(5):278–85.
  9. Bayrakci Tunay V, Akbayrak T, Bakar Y, Kayihan H, Ergun N. Effects of mechanical massage, manual lymphatic drainage and connective tissue manipulation techniques on fat mass in women with cellulite. J Eur Acad Dermatology Venereol. 2010;24(2):138–42.

We are continually adding more information on research and uses. Subscribe below to have us email them to you "hot off the press".

Dr Graeme

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and... read more

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