Mastitis - Blocked Milk Ducts

Article by Nadine Stewart

Mastitis Explained

Mastitis and Its Impact

Mastitis, an inflammatory condition affecting breast tissue, often arises from blocked milk ducts. This blockage typically occurs when breast milk doesn’t drain effectively, leading to a buildup that clogs the ducts. While most common among breastfeeding mothers in the first six months post-birth or during weaning, mastitis can also occur during pregnancy and in non-breastfeeding women.

Recognising Mastitis Symptoms

Mastitis presents several distinct symptoms, such as:

  • Noticeable hardening of the breast tissue
  • Visible redness on the breast skin
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever and body aches

These signs can develop rapidly, often within 24 to 48 hours.

Causes and Prevention of Mastitis

Factors contributing to mastitis include:

  • Skipped or rushed breastfeeding sessions
  • Nipple injury
  • Poor baby latch
  • Stress and insufficient sleep
  • Tight clothing and poorly fitting bras
  • Previous breast engorgement or blocked ducts

Differentiating between mastitis and a simple blocked duct is vital, as blocked ducts typically do not require antibiotic treatment.

Blocked or Plugged Ducts

A plugged duct is marked by a painful, swollen lump in the breast, usually less severe than mastitis. These typically resolve independently within a day or two.

The Phenomenon of Breast Engorgement

Engorgement occurs when breasts become excessively full, either due to a sudden increase in milk production or overproduction. This often happens in the first week post-birth or during major changes in breastfeeding routines.

Symptoms of engorgement include:

  • Swollen, tight, hard, and shiny breasts
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Flattened nipples due to swelling

These symptoms can worsen quickly, often in under two days.

Diagnosing Mastitis vs. Blocked Ducts

While mastitis and a blocked duct share similarities, distinguishing between them is essential. Mastitis is more likely if symptoms include fever, increased pain, and pronounced redness. If a blocked duct doesn’t clear, it can progress to mastitis.

Mastitis/Blocked Ducts

Recent Research and Physiotherapy Treatment Options

Recent studies highlight the effectiveness of physiotherapy in treating mastitis and blocked ducts. Key treatment methods include:

  • Continuing breastfeeding or milk expression
  • Positional feeding to aid drainage
  • Applying heat pre- and post-feeding
  • Using ice packs to reduce post-feeding inflammation
  • Gentle self-massage
  • Ensuring rest and hydration
  • Employing therapeutic ultrasound and kinesiology taping
  • Gentle stretches and breathing exercises for relaxation

Mastitis Therapeutic Ultrasound Treatment

Therapeutic ultrasound is particularly beneficial for persistent blocked ducts, often clearing them within one to two sessions.

Additional Treatment Considerations

Consulting a healthcare provider is crucial. Mastitis may require antibiotics, and imaging might be necessary to exclude an abscess. Probiotics can be helpful but should be discussed with a doctor.

A lactation consultant can offer valuable support, especially for latching issues, providing knowledge and practical aid.

Physiotherapists, like those at PhysioWorks, can guide and manage these conditions effectively with treatments like therapeutic ultrasound.


Empowering Mothers through Knowledge and Support

Mastitis and blocked ducts pose significant challenges for breastfeeding mothers, affecting their physical and emotional health. Prompt recognition of symptoms, understanding of underlying causes, and appropriate treatment are crucial for recovery. With healthcare guidance and physiotherapy interventions, mothers can effectively manage these conditions. Early action and informed choices are key.

For more information or to explore therapeutic ultrasound options, contact your physiotherapist at PhysioWorks for tailored advice and support.

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Article by Nadine Stewart

Women's Health Physiotherapy Conditions

Addressing a diverse range of women-specific concerns, Women’s Health Physiotherapy focuses on assessing and treating various conditions. These encompass issues like constipation, faecal incontinence, mastitis, pelvic floor exercises, pregnancy-related back pain, and massages, along with concerns such as prolapse, abdominal separation, stress incontinence, and underactive pelvic floor. Moreover, the discipline encompasses managing urge faecal incontinence, urgency/overactive bladder (OAB), and urge incontinence, while also offering pre and post-pregnancy exercise prescription and rehabilitation.

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