A week ago on Christmas morning, I woke up with engorged breasts. Asher typically wakes me up every 2-3 hours to nurse and that night he actually waited until around 5 hours to breastfeed. I fed him in bed and was surprised that when he drank from my left breast it was a shorter time period than usual. I felt my breast and it still felt semi-full and I felt a couple of hard spots that felt like clogged ducts right below my areola. I massaged my breast for a few minutes and then tried to nurse some more. Asher got a little more milk out but the hard spots were still there. I went back to sleep and decided I would deal with it later.
Over the next 4 days, I tried my usual techniques for getting rids of clogged milk ducts with little success. I did multiple sessions of heating my breasts with my moist heating pads followed by massages with my hands, breast roller, and breast vibrator. I also tried soaking my breasts in warm water with epsom salt followed by massage and breastfeeding/breast pumping. In addition to this, I added soy lecithin to my smoothies each day as I have read it is supposed to help thin out the milk and thus thin out the clog. I had very little success doing all of these treatments. The only thing that helped a little on the 4th day was when I did 3 treatments of the moist heating pads followed by breast pumping for 10 minutes each time on the highest setting. Unfortunately, this also caused me to injure my right nipple.
My husband decided to take a look on PubMed to see if there were any alternatives we could try. He came across ultrasound therapy as a successful modality some moms have used at their chiropractors. I was excited to hear this because my mother-in-law has a therapeutic ultrasound machine that she bought to help with her arthritis. I asked her if I could borrow it and on the 5th day, I used it for 10 minutes according to the settings that they mentioned in the Pubmed study. These settings are 100% (continuous frequency) duty cycle, 1 MHz, 2 W/cm2, for 8 to 10 min. I used the smaller head probe since it targets a smaller surface area. After my first treatment, I felt the area where I had the clogged duct and it felt significantly smaller! I did 2 more treatments the next day and then 1 more on the following day. I am just so amazed at how the ultrasound unclogged the duct and that it is now back to normal!
If you are having a difficult time getting a duct unclogged, then I would definitely recommend trying ultrasound therapy. If you don't have your own machine or know someone who has one, you can call around to find a local chiropractor that offers this therapy. It would be worthwhile to do, especially if you have pain or it has turned into mastitis.
One thing I want to mention if you are doing this therapy to yourself is to make sure you either use the ultrasound gel that comes with the machine or you can use aloe vera gel. I actually found that the aloe vera gel worked even better for maintaining contact. Also, you will want to make sure that you move the wand around on the affected area in a circular motion. The high frequency sound waves emitted by the probe cause the molecules in your body to vibrate, giving a heated effect. If the area starts to burn, it is because the probe is being held too long in one spot. This causes the injured tissue to vibrate a lot and heat up, which can cause pain. To avoid this, do it in a circular motion to avoid the accumulation of too many sound waves in one area.