Mastitis 101


We at Berwick family Osteopathy wanted to go over some common questions that come up when we talk about Mastitis and Lactation Osteopathy. Below is information that can help you make the decision on whether osteopathy treatment might be helpful for lactation struggles.  

Common causes of Mastitis  

It may be common to think that a bacterial infection is the only cause of mastitis and that is simply not true! Firstly, if you have mastitis, it doesn’t mean you have an infection, it’s actually a broad term for inflammation in the breast tissue and that can be from a range of causes, not just a bacterial infection. This inflammation can be caused by internal and external factors and if left to sit in the breast tissue, this can then be the cause for infectious Mastitis. Everyone is different and it’s not a “one treatment fits all” approach. Here is a list of common causes of inflammation in breast tissue:  

  • Breast engorgement  
  • Blocked ducts 
  • Deep tissue massage to the breast tissue  
  • Poor latching and poor fitting flange (which can be indicators of lip and tongue ties!)  
  • Tight seams on clothes or bras  
  • Stress and anxiety  
  • Blebs  
  • Pumping too strong  
  • Poor posture or ergonomics 
  • Scar tissue (i.e., Biopsy, breast surgery)  
  • Tight chest muscles (i.e., Weights or not enough stretching post exercise)  
  • Spinal dysfunction (i.e., In the neck and back)  
  • Rib cage tension and stiffness 
  • Bacterial imbalance  


Photo by William Fortunato: Pexels. 


Can I catch it before it becomes an infection? 

Now we know that Mastitis can be present without it being an infection, the follow up question next is “Can I get treatment before it becomes an infection?”. The answer is YES! We want to promote and encourage women to seek services (Like us!) so we can give tips and exercises at home to catch and reduce the inflammation in its early stages before it becomes an infection. We want to be able to provide patients with a service that can relieve the symptoms of Mastitis; with tools like therapeutic Ultrasound and lymphatic drainage massage and give easy tools to use at home to help prevent recurrent episodes. Some medical professionals just want to give patients antibiotics and send them on their way, without addressing the cause of the problem, which is inflammation! Encouraging fluid drainage around the area and decreasing any other biomechanical factors that can be impacting that natural flow of fluid drainage is our best tool in preventing bacterial infections taking root. Signs that you may be developing Mastitis include:  

  • Fever  
  • General body aches & pain  
  • Pain in the breast 
  • A lump of the breast  
  • Redness on the skin  
  • Pain when feeding, lifting the arm, lying on that side 

If you have the development of 1 or more of these symptoms, you could benefit from a Lactation Osteopathy consultation. Given the clinic a call on (03) 9702 0094 or go to our website for more information about appointments.  


Why do I keep getting Mastitis over and over again?! 

This is a concern that patients voice when they have been dealing with Mastitis repeatedly. If they have taken the antibiotics every time the GP has prescribed them, why does it seem to keep coming back? Well, it could be because the antibiotics are not actually treating the cause of Mastitis, which is inflammation! If the inflammation isn’t treated, then the breeding ground for the proliferation of bacteria is still present. Even if the original infection is gone, the original catalyst for the infection is still there. Looking at all those causes of mastitis in the list above, you can see that if you only address one of those causes then there is a whole bunch more that could be contributing to the recurrent nature of your Mastitis. That why when we treat patients we look at multiple different reason as to why you could be getting these episodes, including looking at your whole upper body for any mechanical reasons for the impact in fluid drainage, addressing posture and ergonomics, giving you resources and tools to use at home to self-manage the inflammation and help prevent large scale infections from coming back.

It’s also good to look at the other end of the breast-feeding cycle, which is baby! Conditions like tongue ties, lip ties and neck strains can have a huge impact, so assessing whether your baby is playing a role in recurrent episodes of Mastitis is a must! If you suspect this to be the case, our lovely and highly regarded Pediatric Osteopaths, Dr Lauren Collins and Dr Holly Anderson, are great resources to get an assessment. Making sure that Mum and baby are both moving well and healthy is a great way to make sure that pesky Mastitis doesn’t make a return.  



Berwick Family Osteopathy
Photo by MART PRODUCTION: Pexels. 

How does an Osteopath help? 

As far as conventional treatment for Mastitis goes, manual therapy and osteopaths are not very well known (yet!). We already use a holistic approach in treating the body and breasts are a part of the system. Breast therapy is an extension of the skills we already use to treat the rest of the body but using the anatomy of the breast to dictate the treatment.
We as osteopaths use therapeutic ultrasound to break up and mobilise congestion of inflammation in the breast tissues. But where some other practitioners may stop there, we as osteopaths go even FURTHER, because you must encourage all that inflammation to go somewhere! After using the ultrasound, we then use hands on techniques like lymphatic drainage, gentle massage, stretching, and joint mobilization of the surrounding structures like ribs, neck and back. It may seem obvious when we point it out, but making sure that everything in the chest, back, arms, and neck is moving freely, it can have a huge impact on the body’s ability to allow for free fluid drainage from the area. We then give patients stretches, exercises and prevention techniques to help self-manage symptoms at home. It’s the whole package compared to one treatment technique!  


If you are suffering from any type of lactation struggles and are wondering if an Osteopath can help you, give us a call at Berwick Family Osteopathy and Spinal Clinic on (03) 9702 0094, or make an appointment online. 

We can’t wait to see you in the clinic and help you with your health. 


Blog written by Dr Amelia Sloan – Registered Osteopath
Berwick Family Osteopathy and Spinal

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