Chinese medicine has the view that each major organ has an energy meridian line running up or down the body which connects with other meridians and then links to the main organ itself. All areas of the body are traversed by a meridian and the breast is no exception. The liver, gall bladder and stomach meridians go through the breast and ancient physicians believed that the liver controlled the nipple. Mastitis means that there is inflammation but not necessarily infection. However blocked ducts can lead to infection with pathogens like staphalococcus aureus.
What can cause mastitis?
Cracked nipples can be a cause along with stress and missed feedings.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views that toxic heat has entered in through the nipple and then caused blockage in the meridians that traverse through the breast.
Do you put the needles in the breast?
Acupuncture is not actually performed on the breast but on acupuncture points away from the problem on the meridian line of the arm or leg.
The different acupuncture points all have special properties and functions allocated to them. For example the liver meridian has 14 acupuncture points in total and they can treat many different problems associated with the liver. For example, the first liver point on the toe can treat headache and the second liver point in the web of the toes can treat heat and inflammation in the breast. The third liver point in the foot can treat pain in the breast.
If the outside of the breast is mainly affected, then the gall bladder meridian is chosen as it flows alongside the outside of the body and breast.
Can acupuncture help the other symptoms associated with mastitis?
Some acupuncture points have the function of bringing down fever and others can treat the stress and tiredness that women may be experiencing alongside with the mastitis.
Researcher and author of The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth, Dr Debra Betts, PhD, suggests in her book, daily acupuncture treatment for 3-4 days and each treatment is expected to show some improvement in the pain and swelling.
Scott Pearson of the Newtown Acupuncture Centre, opposite Wellington hospital, says “We get a lot of women coming here seeking relief with acupuncture. Many women don’t like the idea of taking antibiotics or Ibuprofen while breast feeding and acupuncture is an option for them“.