Dr. Suneel Chilukuri shares a functional approach with muscle toning technologies to rehabilitate weak or injured muscles.
In-office body toning technologies launched in rapid succession in 2019, first with EmSculpt (BTL Industries), then TruSculpt flex (Cutera), CoolTone (Allergan) and, most recently, Evolve (InMode). The muscle-stimulating devices noninvasively tone and stimulate muscle just enough to give reasonably fit patients a more sculpted look and feel.
But Suneel Chilukuri, M.D., Refresh Dermatology, Houston, Tex., has also found an alternative, functional use for his EmSculpt device.
As one of the early research facilities for the BTL technology, Dr. Chilukuri persistently asked, “What else can be done with this?”
He got his answer when he tried it himself and noticed his chronic back pain improved.
“I noticed that my back pain, which has been there for almost two decades now, had improved,” he says. “I go to the gym seven days a week, so it's not like I'm not working out or doing something active. I couldn't figure out what it was. When I went to go see a physiotherapist, the doctor said, ‘Well, that makes sense because you've probably activated your buttocks and you're not used to working out your buttocks.’”
Dr. Chilukuri decided to see if the technology could also help his patients who also complained of back pain.
“I said, ‘Hey, you know what, why don't we just try this,’” he says. “And over time, I confirmed that our protocol consistently worked.”
And then there was COVID-19, the wide-sweeping effects of which closed gyms, and left even the most well-intentioned gym-enthusiasts’ workout routines affected, resulting in functional deficits and pain.
As restrictions lift, Dr. Chilukuri says that demand is high for functional muscle toning treatments.
“It naturally comes up as a conversation,” he says. “When a patient comments, ‘I haven't been working out as much.’ I always ask him or her, ‘Have you noticed that you're getting more back pain? Are you finding that it's harder to balance on one foot?’”
“We know that after two weeks of being sedentary, we're going to lose endurance; and after four weeks of being sedentary, you're going to lose strength. The third thing that we know is that back pain accounts for one-third of the visits for doctor's offices, and at least a quarter of those, 26% to 27% of people with back pain, when they get evaluated, it's due to weakness of muscles, which usually is from changing posture and a lack of exercise.”