At the young age of 20, Abby Huggenberger, OT, faced issues rarely seen in young women, including incontinence. Dealing with such an embarrassing medical issue at a young age, Huggenberger found herself taking the same medication her grandmother was taking to try and deal with the issue.
“I just thought, ‘Am I going to be on this for the rest of my life and why is this happening to begin with?’ My urologist recommended I go to pelvic floor therapy, and I think like a lot of people I said, ‘What is that?’” Huggenberger said. “I showed up at my first day just nervous as all get out.”
However, after several weeks of going, she started to feel better, and her issues began to resolve.
“After going through that experience, I knew I wanted to help other women dealing with similar issues,” she said.
Huggenberger grew up in Nebraska and earned her degree in occupational therapy at Nebraska Methodist College, focusing her study on women’s health and pelvic floor dysfunction. She moved to Cincinnati to do her clinical work and begin practicing, falling in love with the city. Eventually, she became a traveling therapist which brought her to Aquacare Physical Therapy in Milford.
“I was too young to face the problems I was facing. And the more I work with people, the more I realize this doesn’t differentiate by gender or age. My clients range from teens to seniors,” Huggenberger said. “When I started talking about my experience with pelvic floor therapy, a lot of the people who were asking me more questions were my mom’s friends, and I developed this heart for pelvic floor therapy based on wanting to create a more dignified aging experience for their generation.”
According to Huggenberger, pelvic floor therapy treats more than just incontinence. It focuses on bladder, bowel, sexual, and pain dysfunctions that may be related to the pelvic floor, including the reproductive system and the musculature of the hips.
She explained that someone may need pelvic floor therapy for many reasons, including urinary leakage, constipation or chronic diarrhea, pain with sex, prolapse that can occur after pregnancy, or simply the aging process.
“Pelvic floor therapy is one of the most conservative treatments available, offering a way of looking at muscles and lifestyle factors to develop solutions. Pelvic floor therapy sessions are a mix of exercise and strengthening certain muscle groups, correcting hip alignment, and creating an environment where our back, our core, our hips, and our pelvic floor muscles all function properly together,” Huggenberger said. “It’s also a tremendous amount of education. This can be an area of our bodies we simply don’t think about much until we must.”
Clients who see Huggenberger and the pelvic floor team at Aquacare – Milford find it is helpful to learn about the pelvic floor – the group of muscles and ligaments that support your bladder, uterus, and bowel – because then they can better understand why issues arise with that part of the body.
“From the way we breathe to the way we sit and stand, there are a plethora of ways these can affect our bladder and bowel function. Pelvic floor therapy sessions are a mix of massage and myofascial techniques, exercises, education, and modalities like electrical stimulation, and vibration tools,” Huggenberger said.
In addition, there are products and tools available. Huggenberger can make recommendations based on the needs of each individual and what might benefit them.
Often, clients who come to Huggenberger have been dealing with issues for a very long time, something she thinks comes with the stigma of people not wanting to talk about it.
“There is a stigma surrounding what happens with our pee or poop, our sex lives, those types of things. And our primary doctors aren’t necessarily asking for specifics,” Huggenberger said. “I ask questions of folks that they’ve never been asked before. And we get so much information from that and in re-evaluating our default settings when it comes to peeing and pooping.”
Huggenberger explained that urinary leakage is not normal, although it is very common. She also stated that those issues do not go away and often get worse over time.
It can be difficult, however, Huggenberger stated, because people often commiserate about symptoms of pelvic floor problems. Aging women often joke about not being able to sneeze or cough due to urinary leakage as if they are “in it together,” but Huggenberger wants everyone to know it isn’t something they have to live with.
When symptoms are affecting your daily life, it is time to get help.
“For people who have medical issues that could cause certain conditions, like IBS which can lead to chronic diarrhea or a back injury, I would say like a perfect storm is a stiff, lower back, a weak core, rounded shoulders. I mean, something’s going on in your pelvic floor, whether it is immediately apparent to you or not,” she explained.
With the shortage of primary care providers in Delaware, often residents may not see the same doctor on a regular basis. Many may use urgent care locations or even an emergency room as their primary healthcare service. It is because of this that many residents do not have a good, working relationship with a healthcare professional leading to pelvic floor and other issues to be missed.
It is important for all residents to advocate for their healthcare needs. If you notice issues that could be related to your pelvic floor, call Aquacare to get evaluated.
In Delaware, it is easy to arrange a consultation for pelvic floor or any other type of physical therapy. Patients can call Aquacare first to schedule an appointment or evaluation. Then once they have a diagnosis and treatment plan from the physical therapy team, they can follow up with their primary care provider to get the insurance referral.
Anyone interested in talking to Huggenberger about pelvic floor therapy can call Aquacare at (302) 491-4196 or visit their website at https://aquacarephysicaltherapy.com/location/milford-de/, where they can make an appointment online.
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