Best Ways To Treat Blocked Breast Ducts - Vital Physiotherapy

Best Ways To Treat Blocked Breast Ducts

13 Aug Best Ways To Treat Blocked Breast Ducts

By Talia Diamond, RPT

As a proud mother of three and a women’s health physiotherapist, I have experienced firsthand that breastfeeding can be a wonderful way of feeding and connecting with your baby. While there are SO many benefits to breastfeeding, it is not uncommon for it to be challenging as well, and it’s important to ensure that you have a team of family, friends, and professionals around you to support you and ensure you reach YOUR feeding goals. 

Blocked milk ducts are a common breastfeeding concern (2). They are challenging for mothers both physically AND emotionally, which is why supporting mamas early on, and on an ongoing basis, is important to really optimize their breastfeeding experience. That is where we, as health care professionals, come along! At Vital we work closely with lactation consultants, paediatricians, osteopaths, and chiropractors to see their clients who are struggling with blocked milk ducts and treat them with hands-on therapy as well as therapeutic ultrasound.

Physiotherapy can safely and effectively treat blocked milk ducts (1). Most blocked ducts generally resolve on their own within 24 to 48 hours after they start (2), but if your blocked duct persists past this point, therapeutic ultrasound may be an effective solution for you! Plus, once a milk duct is treated, re-occurrence in that same blocked duct is less likely in that part of the breast (3)!

What is a blocked duct?

Lactating mothers produce breast milk. The milk is transported through specialized breast ducts to the nipple, where the baby receives the flow when sucking. Sometimes, one or more of the breast ducts can become blocked by milk, leading to a red, tender lump or firm area in the breast. Some mamas may also get a white spot on their nipple known as a ‘bleb’. Blocked ducts generally occur when there is poor emptying of the breast duct- This can happen for many reasons, like pressure from a tight bra or strap, a poor latch, or because your baby is not feeding for long enough or is frequently missing feeds.

Not only can a blocked duct be painful, but milk flow from the affected breast will also be slower than usual, which can also cause your baby to be fussy! This can make your whole breastfeeding experience stressful, on top of the many other things you do to take care of your newborn baby!

How does therapeutic ultrasound work?

Ultrasound for blocked ducts is a conservative treatment which helps to drain the breast of the milk blockage. An ultrasound machine sends sound waves with gentle heat through the breast tissue, providing a ‘mini massage’ to the specific blocked area. This helps to unclog the duct, and encourage milk flow through the breast.

Many people have had a therapeutic ultrasound treatment performed on them as part of their orthopaedic physiotherapy session such as an ankle sprain, or any other recent injury. For therapeutic breast ultrasound, the same ultrasound machine is utilized, however, the treatment is provided directly on your breast!

Right after the treatment, it is an optimal time to feed your baby, or pump the treated breast to fully release and drain the breast. You should feel a softening of your breast after the treatment, as well as a significant reduction of the uncomfortable symptoms of the blocked duct. Sometimes, two treatment sessions are required to get this effect. However, the good news is that consecutive treatments have been shown to prevent the blockage from recurring in the same duct (3)!

Other strategies to help with a blocked duct:

If you are currently experiencing a blocked milk duct, here are some other treatment strategies to try:

  • Empty the breast frequently by either nursing your baby, or pumping often.
  • Hand-express before or after a feeding (4).
  • Change feeding positions to ensure complete emptying of each duct.
  • Hydrate!! And make sure you are eating a well balanced diet
  • Place a warm compress over the blocked duct and then 
  • Gently massage the area over the blocked breast duct
  • Consult with a lactation consultant to ensure your baby is latching properly and to fine tune your breastfeeding technique.
  • Consider seeing a chiropractor who can work with you and your baby.

Before attending a physiotherapy session for ultrasound, it is important to ensure that you haven’t developed an infection in your breast, called mastitis (3). If you are experiencing fever or chills along with the breast tenderness, it is important to speak with your doctor, as mastitis needs to be treated with antibiotics. You can also benefit from meeting with a lactation consultant to make sure that your baby is latching well, can suck effectively, and is correctly positioned to prevent any future blocked ducts and mastitis.

Have any other questions about therapeutic ultrasound? 

Get in touch with us- we would be happy to answer any questions you may have!!

Want to chat with us about your specific needs? Looking to book your therapeutic ultrasound appointment? E-mail us at [email protected] or call at 416-551-0900 and we would be happy to take care of you!

About Our Blogger:

Talia Diamond is a pelvic health physiotherapist at Vital! She is a mother of three beautiful girls and loves to use her personal experience as both a pelvic physiotherapist and busy mom to support and guide other mammas and help them achieve their heath and fitness goals! Her wide-ranging experience, together with her empathetic nature, have earned Talia the reputation of being both knowledgeable & caring.

Connect with Talia through e-mail at [email protected]!

References:

(1) https://journals.lww.com/jwhpt/Abstract/2015/09000/Physical_Therapy_Intervention_for_Treatment_of.5.aspx

(2) https://www.canadianbreastfeedingfoundation.org/basics/mastitis.shtml

(3) https://ibconline.ca/information-sheets/blocked-ducts-mastitis

(4) https://breastfeedingusa.org/content/article/hand-expression

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