Breastfeeding is very rewarding, nourishing and difficult skill. Many women have difficulty breastfeeding for a variety of reasons, these difficulties can sometime lead to blocked ducts and mastitis.

What are blocked ducts & mastitis?

Excessive compression of the ducts and restriction in milk flow can result in blocked ducts. The compression does not need to be strong at all for the ducts to get compressed.

The restricted milk can then ‘settle’ and block the ducts. Any obstruction to normal breast drainage including bruising or swelling, poor positioning, poor attachment, nipple soreness, poor bra design and finger compression, can block the ducts.

When these blocked ducts are not cleared you may develop mastitis causing infection of the breast tissue, which can require antibiotic treatment.

Signs & symptoms

  • Painful lumps of the breast
  • Redness and an increased temperature of the breast
  • Flu like symptoms
  • If left untreated, mastitis may become a breast abscess.


  • Your breast milk is safe for your baby even if you have mastitis, so continue to breastfeed or express from the affected breast.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • A blocked duct can become mastitis within hours. If you can’t clear a blockage yourself within 12 hours, seek help!  If antibiotics are prescribed by your doctor, take as directed. It is safe to continue to breastfeed when taking these antibiotics
  • Therapeutic ultrasound prescribed by your Physiotherapist

What is therapeutic ultrasound?

Therapeutic Ultrasound works by creating small vibrations deep within the tissues it is applied over. In terms of Blocked Ducts and Mastitis, ultrasound creates tiny vibrations within the breast tissue to help move blockages in and around the milk duct system of the breast.

It is possible to get significant reductions in the size of blockages and inflammation immediately after ultrasound treatment, and we have had great success with this here at Hartwell Physio. It is best to see your physio as soon as you notice symptoms, however therapeutic ultrasound can work at any stage.

If you have any questions or would like more information on the topic please feel free to chat to one of our Physios.