Breast feeding can be a challenging yet magical part of the ebbs and flows in the postpartum period. However, nearly 1 in 5 breastfeeding women are affected by Mastitis in the first 6 months, but what role can a physiotherapist play?
Mastitis is a term often used to encompass several conditions of the lactating breast.
Conditions in the mastitis spectrum include ductal narrowing, inflammatory mastitis, bacterial mastitis, phlegmon, abscess, galactocele, and subacute mastitis. The term, Mastitis, encompasses conditions that result in inflammation of the breast ducts and swelling in the tissues, causing milk to move through narrow docs. If this is then worsened by overstimulation of milk production and/or changes in the breast bacteria microbiome, then inflammatory mastitis can develop, and bacterial mastitis may follow. A great visual analogy is that mastitis is similar to a road getting blocked with cars, causing slow traffic and congestion.
Looking out for signs of breast pain, tenderness, swelling or lump. Whole body symptoms such as fevers and high temperatures, body aches, fatigue, headaches are often signs of infection and is when general practitioners should be consulted and pharmacological management may be warrented.
General practitioners, physiotherapists, and lactation consultants can all be members of your health care team when managing mastitis. While Mastitis is in the inflammatory stage, before the bacterial stage, physiotherapy treatment can be utilized as a non pharmacological option. Often the basic principles of inflammatory care are utilized. One of the tools physiotherapists can utilised is Therapeutic ultrasound. This device uses thermal energy to assist in reducing inflammation, relieving swelling and pain. Often multiple treatments (2-4) are carried out over consecutive days to get the most benefit. Physiotherapists can also provide education regarding breast feeding posture, lymphatic draining, use of hot and cold therapies.