Background and Purpose:
Blocked milk ducts are a common and painful condition affecting lactating women. A blockage obstructs milk flow in the involved duct, resulting in pain, inflammation, and decreased available milk supply. Blocked ducts can lead to mastitis, breast abscess, and, ultimately, breast-feeding cessation. Heat, self-massage, and frequent feeds are the methods most commonly recommended to clear blocked ducts; however, these interventions are not always successful. There are anecdotal references in the literature indicating that ultrasound facilitates clearing. This study examines the effects of a comprehensive treatment program currently being utilized in one physical therapy clinic to treat blocked milk ducts.
Patients were breast-feeding mothers who had been diagnosed by a certified lactation consultant as having blocked milk ducts. The mothers had tried self-clearing methods without success. Written questionnaires, using Visual Analog Scales to assess level of pain, level of difficulty breast-feeding, and confidence in ability to manage nursing independently, were completed by the patients prior to the first treatment and after completion of treatment. Pre- and posttest Visual Analog Scale differences were analyzed using the Wilcoxon signed rank test.
Statistically significant decreases were noted in pain and difficulty breast-feeding, whereas confidence in ability to manage breast-feeding independently demonstrated a statistically significant increase.
Comprehensive physical therapy intervention was effective in clearing blocked milk ducts that had not responded to self-clearing methods. It significantly reduced pain and difficulty breast-feeding while improving patients' confidence in ability to manage breast-feeding independently.