What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is an inflammatory breast condition that is often characterised by a blocked milk duct/s that may or may not be associated with bacterial or fungal infection. A blockage generally occurs when the breast milk being produced cannot drain from the breast, resulting in the thickening of stationary milk, which leads to a blockage of the associated milk duct/s. Mastitis usually occurs in breastfeeding mothers, many within the first three to six months postpartum or during weaning. However, mastitis can occasionally arise during pregnancy and in women who are not breastfeeding.

The symptoms of mastitis can include:

  • Hard, palpable, thickening of the breast tissue

  • Reddening of the breast tissue

  • Flu-like symptoms including fever, achiness and fatigue

  • Symptoms generally occur and progress quickly, often within 24 to 48 hours

What can cause a blocked milk duct to occur?

There are several factors that can increase the risk of a blocked milk duct occurring and leading to Mastitis, they include:

  • Poor latching to the breast

  • Extended periods between breastfeeds

  • Very full breasts

  • Nipple damage

  • Overly tight bra

  • Stopping feeding suddenly

  • Tongue-tie in a baby that may affect the attachment to the breast

We can help!

At Palms Physiotherapy, our Physiotherapist’s will take a history and assess the affected breast to determine the best treatment option. A therapeutic ultrasound may be used to help open the ducts and increase circulation to improve the flow of milk. By increasing the milk flow, it can reduce pain and swelling. Most women see improvements with ultrasound in the pain and lump size with 2-3 sessions. Ultrasound is not painful, and you often feel a big difference after only one session!

Our Physiotherapist Kirsty breastfed her 3 children for over 3.5 years total, so she has a lot of personal experience with breastfeeding and the highs and low's it brings!

Physiotherapy Treatment Options for Mastitis and Blocked Ducts

There are many treatment options for mastitis and blocked ducts, including:

  • Education

  • Continue regular breastfeeding on the affected side (if able). If you cannot continue breastfeeding, express your milk with a breast pump or self-expression. Continuing to breastfeed helps mastitis and blocked ducts to resolve more rapidly. There is no danger to the baby.

  • Positional feeding to assist with drainage of the affected area. One way of doing this is to position the baby so that their chin “points” to the area of tissue thickening. Thus, if the blocked duct is in the outer lower area of your breast (about 4 o’clock), the football position would be best.

  • Heat on the affected area before and occasionally after feeding (hot water bottle) also helps.

  • Ice packs to assist with settling inflammation after feeding if required

  • Gentle self-massage

  • Regular rest (Not always easy, but take the baby into bed with you)

  • Stay hydrated

  • Therapeutic ultrasound

  • Kinesio taping

  • Gentle stretches and breathing exercises