What is mastitis?
It is an inflammation of the breast, commonly due to a blockage. In the breast, there are lobes which are made up of many smaller lobules, the glands that produces milk. Ducts serve to connect the lobes and lobules and carry the milk to the nipple.
A blockage of these ducts prevents the breast milk from flowing easily, causing the milk to spread into the surrounding tissue, producing inflammation. A bacterial infection may or may not be also present.
What does it look like?
A blocked duct presents as a painful, hot, swollen, firm mass in the breast, with or without symptoms of a fever. If you have symptoms of a fever, it is good to visit your GP to check whether you need antibiotics or not.
Who can get it?
Mastitis is a condition that affects mainly breastfeeding women, but can affect women who are not even breastfeeding or pregnant. In Western women, the incidence of postpartum mastitis is 20%.
Risk factors can include:
- Cracked nipples
- Poor attachment to the breast
- Previous history of mastitis
- Wearing a bra that is too tight
- Stress/overly tired
- Nipple pain during feeding
How do I prevent it from happening?
- Ensure your baby is latched on properly and is feeding well
- Breastfeed as often as your baby wants to
- Avoid missing or putting off feeds
- Alternate which breast you start to feed with
- Consider waking your baby when your breasts become too full. If your baby doesn’t want to feed, you may need to express a small amount of milk
- Avoid pressure on your breasts when feeding
What can I do if I have it?
- Keep breastfeeding regularly, from the affected breast first – it is safe for your baby
- Make sure your baby is latched on well and that you are relaxed and comfortable to help the let-down reflex work (the triggering of the milk by the baby’s sucking)
- Use a warm pack before feeding (to assist milk flow) and an ice pack afterwards (to reduce inflammation)
- Use a breast pump to drain the breast
- Rest, and ensure you have good nutrition and fluids
- Wear comfortable clothing and an appropriately-sized bra
- Take panadol or nurofen – they are safe whilst breastfeeding
- Position the baby appropriately in order to drain the breast better (ask your GP or a Women’s Health Physiotherapist)
How can Physiotherapy help?
When Physiotherapy treatment is sought, often the symptoms can be resolved more quickly. There are a variety of natural, non medicated treatments that Physiotherapists can use to help women suffering from mastitis. These include:
1) Therapeutic ultrasound – to help open up the ducts and assist in removing the blockage
2) Gentle massage – to assist in draining any fluid that is associated with inflammation
3) Education – to encourage self-management and to prevent it happening again in the future
4) Kinesiotaping to enhance drainage
If you have any questions regarding your breast health or are interested in seeing if we can help you, please give us a call at (02) 8411 2050. Here at Thornleigh Performance Physiotherapy, we can give you an accurate diagnosis and treatment, to help you get back in action as soon as possible. We are conveniently located near Beecroft, Cherrybrook, Hornsby, Normanhurst, Pennant Hills, Waitara, Wahroonga, Westleigh, West Pennant Hills, and West Pymble.
Cooper, B. 2005, Physical therapy intervention for treatment of blocked milk ducts in lactating women, Quinnipiac University.