What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is an inflammatory condition of the breast, which may or may not be associated with an infection. Commonly mastitis occurs in breastfeeding mothers when the supply of milk exceeds the demand and becomes backed up in the breast. This increases pressure in the breast and some milk can be pushed outside of the breast ducts into the breast tissue. Your body then starts an inflammatory response to remove the milk from the area. This type of inflammation is due to a reaction from your own body tissue and can result in pain, redness, swelling and difficulty feeding.

On occasions there may be an infection associated with mastitis and women may present with flu-like symptoms of fever, increased fatigue levels and body aches. If you are feeling unwell it is recommended that you first visit your doctor, as some cases of mastitis may require treatment with antibiotics.

Antibiotics are designed to treat infection, however new mothers can have symptoms of mastitis including redness, swelling, pain and heat – and have no infection, so antibiotics are not always required. Our physiotherapist can assist you in identifying the cause of your breast symptoms.

What are the Symptoms?

Inflammation can cause pain, redness, swelling and heat locally in the breast. You may also feel unwell, achy and have increased fatigue levels – similar to flu symptoms.

How can Mastitis be prevented?

  • Ducts are small, superficial and easily compressed. Avoid restrictive clothing or bras which may put too much pressure on breast tissue. If your clothing is causing red marks, this may indicate it is too tight and potentially squashing milk ducts
  • Avoid lying on stomach for too long as this can also squash milk ducts
  • Ensure correct positioning and attachment with good sucking action for good milk transfer

What can you do?

If you suspect you have mastitis it is recommended you are assessed by your Women’s Health Physiotherapist or Doctor as soon as possible.
Learning to manage your symptoms is important to quickly ease your discomfort and continue breastfeeding. There is no evidence of risk to the health of your baby when continuing breastfeeding with mastitis.

Physiotherapy Management

The sooner you seek help for you symptoms the faster they will resolve. At Innerstrength Healthcare, our Physiotherapists are trained to assess inflammatory conditions of the lactating breast and can  provide you with strategies to ease symptoms and prevent reoccurrence. Therapeutic Ultrasound Therapy is often used to assist with drainage of the breast tissue and can be used in conjunction with other conservative management strategies.

  • Therapeutic Ultrasound: uses sound waves to gently dilate deep milk ducts where many blockages occur. When milk ducts are dilated there is more space in the ducts for blockages to pass and this can assist in resolution of symptoms within one treatment. Therapeutic ultrasound can also assist with the drainage of lymphatic fluid out of the breast tissue.
  • Massage: we can teach you gentle self-massage techniques to assist in reduction of your symptoms. It is very important to be gentle with the massage as pressing too hard can cause more damage to the breast tissue
  • Positioning: appropriate position of yourself and your baby while feeding can assist to drain the blockage

Self management strategies include:

  • Regular feeding or use of your breast pump to relieve the pressure and drain the breast
  • Heat compress before feeding to assist milk flow and cold compress after to reduce inflammation
  • Rest, good nutrition and fluids – looking after yourself is important!
  • Pain relief – Panadol and Nurofen are compatible with breast feeding in most women, if you have any medication concerns contact The Royal Women’s Hospital Pharmacy or consult with your GP

Physiotherapy tends to work best if treatment is sought as soon as a blocked duct is noticed. If you are experiencing blocked ducts or mastitis, or are unsure if physiotherapy can assist you with your feeding issues, contact us to make an appointment with one of our Physios on 52297963.