Local occupational therapist Ashley Sass provides treatment for issues that most people don’t like talking about.
“It’s a very private issue,” she said.
Sass, who practices at Fremont Therapy & Wellness, specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation and incontinence therapy.
Sass has worked as an occupational therapist for 9 nears, and while working in a skilled nursing facility early on in her career she began seeing just how much pelvic floor dysfunction can negatively affect people’s lives.
“A lot of people ask me why I would want to get into this field, and it really is because I wanted to help people,” she said. “I just started noticing it was affecting people’s lives. There are patients I see that due to pain, due to incontinence, they don’t go out with their friends anymore. They don’t go do anything because they are worried about losing urine, having increased frequency of urination, or they are in pain.”
As a result, over the past two years Sass has focused her career on pelvic floor muscle dysfunction for both women and men using a unique process known as biofeedback training or therapy.
“A lot of people don’t even know it’s even out there and that it is an option and it’s so non-invasive especially when compared to pelvic surgery or bladder sling surgery,” she said. “It allows me to see their pelvic floor up on a computer screen and it also shows me their abdominals, or their gluteus maximus muscles and allows me to teach them how to do proper Kegel exercises.”
The treatment involves a small biofeedback machine that is connected to a laptop. The machine also connects to the body of the patient with small stick-on sensors that allow Sass and the patient to view the pelvic floor muscle on the laptop screen.
By being able to view how the pelvic floor muscle is contracting, it allows Sass to see whether or not her patients are doing exercises, such as Kegels, correctly.
“For example, a lot of times after you have kids they tell you that you should be doing Kegels, but no one tells you how to do it, and since it’s an interior muscle it’s very hard to demonstrate,” she said. “So with the biofeedback machine it teaches them how to do those exercises properly.”
The non-invasive therapy allows Sass to assist patients with a variety of conditions including incontinence, postpartum pelvic pain and incontinence issues, urinary urgency and frequency, post abdominal and urinary surgery rehab, pelvic pain and pediatric issues.
“Ages range from kiddos all the way to elderly, it’s really whoever is having issues,” she said. “So anything from kids wetting the bed, or having spasms of their pelvic floor, to new mothers, people who have had pelvic surgery, and elderly patients who are struggling with incontinence.”
Sass says that although women do make up a portion of her clients, pelvic floor dysfunction affects both men and women.
“A lot of people think that only women have a pelvic floor, but everyone has that muscle,” she said. “The pelvic floor is a long skinny muscle that runs from where you urinate to where you have your bowel movements and it laces between all of those orifices.”
Sass says that another advantage of biofeedback therapy is that it’s not so much a procedure, as it is a way to teach and provide patients the tools and skills necessary to regain control.
“They come see me for the computer assisted technology to learn how to do it, but then they can do it on their own once they learn to do it properly,” she said. “So the need for me is not very long as long as you learn how to do it, it really is training.”
Along with teaching patients exercises to help them control their pelvic wall, and in turn their bladder issues, Sass takes a holistic approach with her patients.
“I look at what is our positioning, what are we eating drinking and other things that might be causing us to go the bathroom more frequently,” she said.
One example, according to Sass, is patients who have incontinence and leakage issues who have trained themselves to go to the bathroom every hour as a way to avoid the issue.
“They retrained their brain to send signals that they need to go to the bathroom every hour, which isn’t a real solution,” she said. “So we are also training the brain to stop giving those signals. So they don’t have to go to the bathroom so frequently, which gives them better quality of life where they can go watch a movie or go to a concert without having to worry about where the closest bathroom is.”
Sass says the biofeedback therapy is covered by most insurance, including Medicare, and that any out-of-pocket cost is offset by money saved on incontinence products like pads and briefs.
“You also have to think about how much money am I spending on briefs and pads, if I can eliminate having to wear those on a daily basis it really adds up,” she said.
For more information about occupational therapy at Fremont Health & Wellness, pelvic floor rehabilitation and incontinence therapy call 402-512-3893. Fremont Therapy & Wellness is located at 1445 N Bell Street and can be found online at www.FT WNE.com.