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Adding Physical Therapy to Your Lactation Team

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

When breastfeeding women experience painful, swollen, clogged milk ducts they typically only think of two types of providers: their doctor and an IBCLC Lactation Consultant (as they absolutely should!)

But what if I told you that Physical Therapy should also be on your list of resources?


Training & Scope of the Physical Therapist

It’s true! Physical Therapists are movement and function specialists who spend years upon years (7 at the very least, but most of us have well over 10+ years of additional training and education in our specialty treatment areas) studying human anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. As such, our scope of practice extends beyond just knees and hips.

Women’s Health is a specialty practice within Physical Therapy which focuses on the movement and functional wellbeing of women throughout the lifespan, including the childbearing and postpartum years. In addition to our broad knowledge of the neuromusculoskeletal system (say that five times fast), we also study the organs systems of the pelvis, the lymphatics, and human lactation.

The International Lactation Consultant Association recognizes Physical Therapy as an important team member in lactation health, and supports treatment by trained therapists to assist them in addressing common concerns in breastfeeding. Check out this post from the ILCA's official blog, Lactation Matters: "Physical Therapy Techniques in Lactation."

Women’s Health Physical Therapy & Clogged Milk Ducts

Breastfeeding is a complex and beautiful process which involves so much more than simply providing the best and most readily available nutrients possible for baby. For the nursing woman, there can be many joys and many challenges associated with this bonding experience. Physical Therapists are experts at observing, assessing, and treating common ergonomic impairments and subsequent aches and pains associated with the demanding postures of breastfeeding. We may also, within our scope, provide basic educational support regarding positions, nutrition, improving milk production, tips for engorgement, achieving a proper latch, signs of a poor latch, mastitis signs and prevention, and how to recognize when you and baby may benefit from seeing a qualified IBCLC. (WWPT always recommends follow up with a lactation consultant following an episode of clogged ducts in case the root cause of the clog may be evaluated and prevented from repeat occurrence in the future.)

Even less well known is our involvement in the assessment and treatment of of clogged milk ducts. Physical Therapists are trained and licensed to use a wide range of various techniques and modalities to address this issue. Well Women Physical Therapy's treatment approach includes but is not limited to:

  • Castor Oil Moist Heat Pack - decreases inflammation, dilates vessels, improves blood flow, and decreases pain​

  • Therapeutic Ultrasound - gently mobilizes the tissues and clogged duct while providing deeper heat therapy

  • Specialized Manual Therapeutic Techniques - encourage both milk and lymphatic flow while further reducing pain

  • "Breast Bath" - similar to a Sitz Bath for your breast using a Silicone Milk Collector (which you get to keep for your home program) and epsom salt.

You will receive education regarding lactation anatomy & physiology, prevention of future clogged ducts, a self-treatment home program, nutrition & supplements, a provider list of recommended IBCLC Lactation Consultants in your area, mastitis, and when to seek medical treatment. This specialized consultation may be utilized as a one-time treatment & education course or additional Follow Up Sessions may be purchased to provide other Obstetric & Maternal Support, Postpartum Rehabilitation, and/or Clogged Milk Duct Drainage techniques until your specific issues have resolved.

***If the breast is hot and red or with red streaks, please seek medical attention before your consultation.

Visit our prices and scheduling page to find more and get booked for your visit with WWPT.

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