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Clogged milk ducts during breastfeeding | Image courtesy of Timothy Meinberg via Unsplash
Clogged milk ducts during breastfeeding | Image courtesy of Timothy Meinberg via Unsplash

Physical therapy can help women across their lifespan. This includes support with orthopedic considerations related to breastfeeding, as well as other breastfeeding care with clogged milked ducts and noninfectious mastitis.

Symptoms & Causes of Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis

Breastfeeding can be a joyous time for some, but unfortunately it can be painful for others. Clogged milk ducts can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. It often arises due to not being able to drain fully, causing a back-up of milk along the mammillary ducts. It can occur when feeding sessions are interrupted or skipped, as well as when mom is under stress. One may experience symptoms such as a painful lump in the breast tissue, pain during breastfeeding that subsides after, and/or decreased milk supply from the blockage. Sometimes if unresolved, it can lead to mastitis, or infection of the breast tissue. Monitor for symptoms such as fever, swelling of breast tissue, redness of breast tissue, and escalation of pain/breast tenderness. If you start to experience these aforementioned symptoms, give your doctor a call as soon as possible.

Treatment Options for Clogged Milk Ducts

Home treatments to help with clogged milk ducts include:

  • switching breasts more frequently
  • massaging the breast while feeding or pumping
  • applying and hot compress/towel on the breast before feeding

In office physical therapy treatments for clogged milk ducts include:

  • Postural re-eduation/ergonomic positioning for optimal breastfeeding positions
  • Many folks experience mid back and upper back pain from the many hours of breastfeeding. Physical therapists are trained to brainstorm the best positions for your specific needs and optimize breast milk flow
  • Modalities such as therapeutic ultrasound
  • Research has shown that applying heat through soundwaves can help bring blood flow to the area and reduce inflammation to help unclog the duct (Markowski, 2019)
  • Manual therapy addressing cervical spine, mid back and shoulder complex
  • We are connected through soft tissue and fascia head to toe; working on the neck or shoulder can help open up the breast tissue for more optimal fluid movement has been shown to improve clogged milk ducts

Physical therapy for clogged milk ducts:

Physical therapists can help with optimal breastfeeding positions, manual therapy and apply therapeutic ultrasound to improve clogged milk ducts and prevent the onset of mastitis. Usually 3-5 physical therapy sessions that include therapeutic ultrasound can make a significant improvement in symptoms. Any questions? Call our office to schedule an appointment with a licensed physical therapist at our offices today. Link to: https://feminapt.com/about-us/schedule-an-appointment

 

References:

Markowski Cucchiara M. Standard of Care: Physical Therapy Treatment of Clogged Milk Ducts. Department of Rehabilitation Services: Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 2019. https://www.brighamandwomens.org/assets/BWH/patients-and-families/rehabilitation-services/pdfs/physical-therapy-treatment-of-blocked-milk-ducts.pdf

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A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

I was diagnosed with vaginismus 4 years ago. I never heard of such medical condition until after I got married. At first my husband and I didn't know what to do, we didn't know what the issues were or how to overcome it. Being born and raised in Armenia and being Christian I wasn't that open about talking to sex with others and so it wasn't easy to seek help. But eventually I went to an Ob-Gyn and luckily she knew about the medical condition (not many doctors know). She referred me to a physical therapist and I couldn't believe it and thought it's something I can handle myself. I ordered a kit from vaginismus.com and started practicing with dilators. There was some small progress but wasn't much helpful.

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I have been going to see Heather for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much she has improved my quality of life. Heather specializes in issues like pelvic floor, but I see her for other orthopedic issues.

I have a lot of chronic joint pain and dysfunction issues (back, hips, neck) that require that have ongoing physical therapy maintenance. The effects of my problem joints/areas overlap and interconnect with each other in complex ways, so helping me requires really having a complete understanding of the entire skeletal and muscular system. Pain does not always appear where the problem actually is, the human body is a twisty, many-layered puzzle. I have an exercise program I do at home and I am very functional, but there are just something things I need a PT to help me out with.

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After having my second baby via C-section I searched for months to try to find help for my lower back pain and separated abdominal muscles. I finally came across Heather Jeffcoat via a mommy blog. I reached out to her via email and set my first appointment. My first appointment went amazing … she listened to what my symptoms, check my separation and explained to me in detail what the next steps would be. Not only did my abdominal separation go from 3 to about 1 -1/2 but my back has pain has significantly reduced. I’m personally recommending all my mommy friends to Heather!

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Testimonial by M.M.

My husband and I were married for 5 years and unable to have intercourse, but I never knew why. After numerous awful experiences at doctor’s offices (where many doctors told me I “just needed to relax”), a surgery that didn’t fix the problem, and a year of owning dilators that didn’t get me anywhere, someone finally referred me to Heather for Physical Therapy. I finally had answers and information from someone who knew exactly what I was dealing with!

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While pregnant with my twins, Heather took care with keeping me on my feet and pain free. She saved my back, my sanity and the holidays! I would recommend her to every “mom” looking to stay on her feet during pregnancy and post-partum.

-- T.C.

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I was hopeful but frankly skeptical when the doctor treating me for Interstitial Cystitis recommended that I go to Heather for physical therapy. Medication and diet helped control my IC symptoms, but I had never heard of physical therapy being used to treat IC. The education and treatment I received from Heather was a revelation. She explained that the pain I experienced with IC had helped create a cycle of muscle guarding which affected the entire pelvic area. I had no idea of the amount of tension being held there. No wonder my husband and I had not been able to have sexual intercourse for years!

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