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Ultrasound Therapy for Mastitis and Blocked Ducts

Mastitis is inflammation of the breast. Mastitis can occur for a multitude of reasons including oversupply (hyperlactation), milk stasis (ineffective milk drainage), bacterial infection and altered breastmilk microbiome from the use of antibiotics or probiotics.

It can be common to experience ductal narrowing, sometimes called plugged ducts or blocked ducts when you have Mastitis. This occurs as swelling and inflammation in the breast tissue surrounding the milk ducts causes the ducts to narrow or block off. This makes it difficult for breastmilk to pass through. You may feel an area on your breast which is firm, hot or painful to touch. It may be difficult to remove breastmilk from this part of the breast.

What can you do to resolve the blocked duct?

  • Continue to breastfeed or express breastmilk, as you usually would. Feeding can sometimes help relieve the pressure and feeling of a blockage.

  • Wear a soft, supportive and comfortable bra which doesn't press into your breast tissue.

  • Apply ice or cool packs to your breast to reduce inflammation

  • Anti-inflammatory medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may help with pain and inflammation

  • Sunflower lecithin or Soy lecithin may help prevent future plugged ducts

  • Contact an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

  • Consider Therapeutic Ultrasound (Ultrasound Therapy) of the affected breast.

What should you avoid doing?

  • Increased breastfeeding or expressing frequency

  • Vigorous breast massage

  • Saline soaks, castor oil on the breast

  • Silicone breast pumps with epson salts

  • Using a nipple shield (if possible)

  • Feeding from the unaffected breast only

These actions can encourage further inflammation and swelling, or ineffective breast drainage, which will exacerbate symptoms.

For most, with continued feeding and strategies to reduce swelling and inflammation the blocked duct will resolve within 2 - 3 days.

How does Ultrasound Therapy work?

Ultrasound Therapy uses high frequency sound waves to create movement, warmth and vasodilation which increases blood flow to the affected site. For mastitis and ductal narrowing (plugged ducts), therapeutic ultrasound uses thermal energy to reduce swelling and inflammation in the breast tissue.

Most people do not feel any sensation within the tissue during ultrasound therapy, aside from the movement of the ultrasound head on their skin. Sometimes, clients will feel slight warmth. Ultrasound therapy is most effective when used from a short time (5 minutes) for 2 -3 consecutive days.

Where can you get Ultrasound Therapy?

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