Mastitis is inflammation of the breast and affects 1 in 4 lactating women during the first 6 months postpartum. It is thought to occur when milk ducts become ‘blocked’ and milk enters the surrounding breast tissue, setting off a dramatic inflammatory response.
Signs and symptoms of mastitis can vary from mild to severe. These include breast pain, swelling, redness and heat. Some women may also experience fever and flu-like symptoms but this does not necessarily indicate an infection is present.
Mastitis can be debilitating for new mums and is understandably one of the most common reasons to stop breastfeeding early.
Some helpful hints to manage mastitis include:
- Rest! Enlist as much help as you need so you can get some sleep and recover.
- Continue breastfeeding from the affected breast, or, if this is too painful, hand express or pump.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. (Consult with your GP or pharmacist first if you are on prescription medication).
- Use hot or cold packs, whatever you find most relieving. Usually, women find heat before breastfeeding and ice after to be the most helpful.
- Stop vigorously massaging your breast. The milk ducts are easily compressed and massaging too deeply will only create more congestion and tissue trauma.
This is where our women’s health physiotherapist can help! They have been specifically trained to assess and treat inflammatory conditions of the lactating breast and can teach you gentle, pain-free massage and movement techniques to help drain the fluid out of your breast and into the lymphatic system. This is a skill you can use to manage tender breasts, blocked ducts and mastitis in future!
Our women’s health physiotherapists can also use therapeutic ultrasound which is a highly effective treatment for mastitis. Using soundwaves, therapeutic ultrasound creates a vibration in the breast tissue, helping to reduce swelling and relieve pain. If an infection is present, ultrasound can also help to open the protective lining (biofilm) of bacteria making it easier for the body’s immune system and/or antibiotic drugs to do their work. It is a completely painless and soothing treatment – you will feel only a comfortable warmth.
Other treatment options include:
- Tubigrip in the form of ‘boobitubi’ to provide gentle compression and support.
- Kinesio Taping to promote lymphatic flow and supports the resolution of symptoms.
As mastitis is highly recurrent, our women’s health physiotherapists will aim to address all of the contributing factors to prevent future episodes and give you the best chance of continuing to breastfeed successfully.
If you are suffering with mastitis, book online today with our women’s health physiotherapists. If you are unable to find a booking online, please phone (07) 3358 3915 as we prioritise these appointments.