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The Gist: What is mastitis and clogged milk ducts

Also known as: breast pain, blocked milk duct, clogged milk duct

During breastfeeding, milk ducts can get clogged, which can lead to redness, swelling, and pain in the breast. You will typically feel a lump in the area of the clog. Untreated clogged ducts can lead to mastitis, which is the inflammation of the breast tissue often resulting in infection and fever.

The Anatomy of Mastitis and Clogged Milk Ducts

Milk ducts are tubes in your breast that carry milk from the alveoli to the nipple. A clog plug can occur in a milk duct for a myriad of reasons. If you have frequent clogged clogged ducts, please contact a lactation consultant.

The Origin Way: Physical therapy for Mastitis and Clogged Milk Ducts

Your Physical Therapist will use a combination of heat, massage, ultrasound, and gua sha, which is a jade tool often used in Chinese medicine, to help your clogged duct. It is important to nurse or pump shortly, if not immediately, after your treatment.

If the clogged ducts do not resolve with these techniques and you develop mastitis, you will most likely need to start a course of antibiotics based on your OBGYN's recommendation. If interested, your Physical Therapist can also provide resources for lactation consultants.

What to expect in the future

Your Physical Therapist will teach you how to self-massage your breast if you experience another clogged duct. However, it can sometimes be painful to do to yourself so some prefer to come back to physical therapy for subsequent clogs.

Additional Reading and Sources

Cooper, Barbara B. PT, MS1,2; Kowalsky, Donald PT, EdD3 Physical Therapy Intervention for Treatment of Blocked Milk Ducts in Lactating Women, Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy: September/December 2015 - Volume 39 - Issue 3 - p 115-126 doi: 10.1097/JWH.0000000000000037

Thomas, Princy. "Breast Massage: A Reliever for Mild Breast Engorgement." International Journal Of Nursing & Midwifery Research, vol. 4, no. 1, 2017, pp. 17–19., doi:10.24321/2455.9318.201703.

Chiu, Jin-Yu, et al. "Effects of Gua-Sha Therapy on Breast Engorgement: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Journal of Nursing Research, vol. 18, no. 1, Mar. 2010.

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