Hernia is a condition that occurs when an internal organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot or region in the covering muscle or tissue that is supposed to contain it. For example, one of the most common types of hernias is when the intestines (internal organ) push through the lower abdomen muscle wall (surrounding tissue). This produces a bulge in the lower abdominal area.
A hernia may not be serious immediately, but many hernias tend to worsen with time and will require surgical intervention. Anybody can get a hernia regardless of age or gender, although it may be more common in older adults and those who are overweight. Most hernias occur within the abdominal cavity, between the chest and the hip.
It produces a noticeable lump or bulge that can be pushed back in or that can disappear when lying down. Laughing, crying, coughing, or straining during a bowel movement or physical activity may make the lump reappear after it has been pushed in. Speak with a doctor immediately for an appropriate diagnosis.
What causes a hernia
A hernia can be caused due to several reasons. The weakening of the enveloping tissues or other muscles due to ageing, strain, obesity or birth defects can make it easier for internal organs to push through.
Risk factors for hernia may also include pregnancy, being overweight, straining when going to the toilet, forceful and regular coughing or giving birth. Additionally, some hernias may be caused after a surgical procedure, while other hernias like Hiatal hernias do not have causes that are fully understood. There are many places you can get a hernia; here is a list of some of the most common types:
- Inguinal hernia – This is the most common hernia. The inguinal canal goes from the abdominal region to the lower groin. The weakening of tissues in this region may cause the intestines or tissue from inside to push through and create a bulge at the top of the inner thigh.
- Femoral hernia – A femoral hernia is a rare type of hernia in the groin region that occurs over the femoral canal in the upper thighs. This type of hernia is more likely in older women.
- Umbilical hernia – When the tissues or muscles near the belly button (navel) become weakened, the internal tissue can push through and make a bump in that area. This is known as Umbilical Hernia. If the hernia is detected above the navel but below the breastbone, it is known as an epigastric hernia. This hernia may be noticed more often in young children.
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- Hiatal hernia – Inside your body, your digestive organs, like the intestines, are kept separated from the upper chest cavity due to the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle within your chest that keeps the organs separate and organised, but sometimes the diaphragm can become weakened, damaged or have defects from birth. This leads to parts of the stomach pushing through and entering your chest region and is known as a hiatal hernia. In some people with severe defects, not only the stomach but multiple organs from the tummy region are free to push into the chest area. This is called a diaphragmatic hernia.
- Incisional hernia – Incisional hernias occur at the site of an incision or cut due, usually made for surgical purposes. After the surgery, the body may not heal the muscle tissue properly, which may lead to a weak point developing. This makes it easier for a bulge to form and the internal organs to push through. Some types of incisional hernias are called ventral hernias.
Symptoms of hernia
A hernia can be easily noticed since they typically occur in common places and have similar symptoms. In most cases, you will need to speak with your doctor immediately after finding a hernia. Here are a few key signs to watch for:
- A swelling, bulge, bump, raised or inflamed area in your upper groin, belly, lower chest, inner groin or belly button.
- Pain at the site of the bulge.
- Pain when moving or using the concerned muscles (especially when lifting objects).
- Aching in the region, increased pain when bending.
- The bulge or bump grows larger with time.
- Some hernias may get smaller or disappear when you lay flat.
- Feeling that your bowels are restricted.
- Vomiting, constipation and blood in the stools.
- Difficulty swallowing, heartburn, weakness in the groin area.
Home remedies for Hernia home remedies do not cure hernia. These may help reduce the risk of hernia in some people. Consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment of hernia.
Do not try any exercise or home remedies without your doctor’s consent –
1. Say no to strenuous exercises
One of the main causes of hernia is strenuous exercise or overexertion. If you are engaged in heavy exercises, cut back and perform easy workouts. People who have suffered from hernia before should refrain from lifting heavyweights. Some of the following exercises can help reduce the hernia-
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- Try walking in a pool, completing 4-5 laps
- Lie on a mat and cycle your legs
- Go for brisk walks for at least 30 mins every day
Light cycling may be considered safe for people with smaller hernias and may also strengthen your muscles. If cycling is causing you more pain, then it should be avoided completely.
Walking is one of the most beneficial and simple exercises to perform and comes with many health benefits. Walking will generally not put additional strain on your hernia (depending on where the hernia is).
Swimming can relieve a lot of pressure, strain and pain due to the buoyancy of the water. Speak with your doctor and find out whether this exercise is appropriate for you. You will need to avoid strenuous laps and focus on gentle pool wading to get any benefit from this exercise.
Yoga may also support abdominal muscle strength, similar to the previously mentioned abdominal exercises. Avoid any yoga poses that increase your pain and discomfort and this may worsen your hernia.
6. Small and light meals
Smaller meals can be effective for decreasing the symptoms associated with hernias that involve the intestines. The less pressure you put on your stomach internally, the easier it is for you to digest your food. This will ensure that your digestive system is not under stress which may benefit you by limiting your hernia pain.
7. Ice pack
An ice pack on the hernia will act as a quick inflammation reliever when your hernia is causing too much discomfort. Always cover the ice with a soft cloth and do not leave it on for long periods.
8. High-fibre diet
With more fibre, your stools will be easier to pass and you won’t need to strain. Softer stools can also decrease the risk of constipation.
9. Weight loss
Obesity and being overweight may increase your risk of a hernia or worsen your condition if you already have one. The more you weigh, the more pressure is placed against your muscle walls. Speak with your doctor about safe ways to lose weight.
When to seek professional help for a hernia
If your hernia is not causing you any symptoms like pain or bowel issues, your doctor may not immediately recommend surgery. However, in most cases, a hernia will be accompanied by several serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention. Consult a doctor if you notice the following:
- A bulge or swelling in the abdominal region or groin.
- Nausea, fever, accompanied by vomiting. Difficulty in swallowing food.
- Sudden shooting pain that gets worse with time.
- The swelling or hernia bump increases in size.
- The bump turns red, purple or darker.
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Hernias usually become larger and more severe with time. A strangulated hernia is when the hernia bulge cannot be pushed back inside and becomes trapped within the muscles. This is a dangerous complication. Most hernias are surgically fixed by putting the internal organ back in its place and then strengthening the weak or damaged muscle tissue. Do not delay treatment.
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If you suspect that you might have a hernia, speak with your doctor immediately. Even if you do not yet have any symptoms, your doctor will need to monitor your situation and plan for your future. Hernias can be extremely painful to manage and live with and luckily there are several surgical options available. Be sure to check with your doctor what instructions you need to follow to manage your hernia before and after surgery.
Q1. What is the main cause of hernia?
Ans. Most hernias occur due to a combination of two factors occurring at the same time – internal pressure of the organs and tissues + the weakening or opening of muscles or other tissue. This leads to the internal tissue pushing through the outer protective layers and creating a bulge that is easily visible.
Q2. What are the first signs of a hernia?
Ans. The first signs of a hernia are usually a bulge, swelling or bump in the belly, upper and inner thighs or upper groin that is accompanied by sharp pain Or can be painless too.
Q3. How serious is a hernia?
Ans. A hernia is usually a serious issue unless it is small. Even small hernias eventually turn into serious medical conditions; however, larger ones typically require urgent medical attention and will have more painful symptoms.
Q4. Do hernias go away on their own?
Ans. No, most hernias do not go away on their own and will require some kind of medical attention eventually.
Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.