Ultrasound therapy is the use of sound waves with frequency in the range of 0.7 to 3.3 MHz that can penetrate 2 to 5 centimeters under the skin to stimulate blood circulation, reduce pain, and increase the elasticity of tissue. Therapeutic ultrasound can treat blocked milk ducts by expanding them, allowing the milk to then flow through the ducts more easily. Breastfeeding the baby, manually expressing breast milk, or using a breast pump can then help milk to flow more effectively.
Ultrasound may be a treatment option for women with engorgement or blocked milk ducts and its suitability will be decided by the doctor. A physical therapist will carry out the treatment. It may be done just once to resolve the issue or may need to be repeated a few times to be most effective.
The difference between therapeutic ultrasound and warm compresses is that the compresses may not penetrate deep enough under the skin to truly affect the milk ducts. Ultrasound can reach 2 to 5 centimeters under the skin where warm compresses may only reach about 1 centimeter.
- Breastfeed the baby to drain the milk ducts or use a breast pump for at least 30 to 45 minutes. A double pump may be more effective as it can drain both breasts at the same time after an ultrasound treatment.
- It is recommended that warm compresses be used for 5 to 10 minutes before expressing breast milk the next time. Breast massage can also help.
- Breastfeed the baby often, every 2 to 3 hours, and if the breast is not completely empty, use a pump. If the baby is not drinking directly from the breast, pump every 2 to 3 hours during the day and every 3 hours at night.
- After breastfeeding and/or pumping, if the breast is still painful, use cold compresses and take pain medication, like paracetamol, as needed.
- Avoid food and drinks that are too sweet or high in fat, and avoid food and medication that can increase supply while dealing with engorgement and/or blocked milk ducts.
- Keep all doctors’ appointments to monitor the situation as untreated engorgement and/or blocked milk ducts can lead to mastitis or breast abscess.
- For advice and additional information, please contact hospital staff:
- Breastfeeding Clinic
- Physical Therapy Department
- Women’s Center