What Is Hernia?
A hernia occurs when there is a weakness or hole in the muscular wall that usually keeps abdominal organs in place. This muscular wall is called the peritoneum.
Hernia is a condition in which part of an organ is displaced and protrudes through the wall of the cavity containing it (often involving the intestine at a weak point in the abdominal wall).
A hernia is an opening or tears in the muscles covering the belly. This permits a loop of gut to push through and form a lump under the skin. Hernias usually come from lifting something heavy, or straining (as during childbirth). Some babies are born with a hernia.
In men, hernias are common in the groin. Swollen lymph nodes may also cause lumps in the groin.
Hernias are most common in the abdomen, but they can also appear in the upper thigh, belly button, and groin areas. Causes of Hernia
With the exception of an incisional hernia (a complication of abdominal surgery), in most cases, there is no obvious reason for a hernia to occur. The risk of hernia increases with age and hernia occurs more commonly in men than in women. A hernia can be congenital - present at birth - or develop in children who have a weakness in their abdominal wall. Activities and medical problems that increase pressure on the abdominal wall can lead to a hernia.
Straining on the toilet (due to long-term constipation)
- Persistent cough
- Cystic fibrosis
- Enlarged prostate
- Straining to urinate
- Being overweight or obese
- Abdominal fluid
- Lifting heavy items
- Peritoneal dialysis
- Poor nutrition
- Physical exertion
- Undescended testicles
- Groin - a femoral hernia gives a bulge just below the groin (more common in women); an inguinal hernia (more common in men) is a bulge in the groin that may reach the scrotum
- Upper part of the stomach - hiatal or hiatus hernia is the upper part of the stomach pushing up out of the abdominal cavity and into the chest cavity via an opening in the diaphragm
- Belly button - a bulge around here is produced by an umbilical hernia
- Surgical scar - past abdominal surgery can lead to an incisional hernia through the operational scar.
- Inguinal (inner groin)
- Incisional (resulting from an incision)
- Femoral (outer groin)
- Umbilical (belly button)
- Hiatal (upper stomach).
In an incisional hernia, the intestine pushes through the abdominal wall at the site of previous abdominal surgery. This type is most common in elderly or overweight people who are inactive after abdominal surgery.
A femoral hernia occurs when the intestine enters the canal carrying the femoral artery into the upper thigh. Femoral hernias are most common in women, especially those who are pregnant or obese.
In an umbilical hernia, part of the small intestine passes through the abdominal wall near the navel. Common in newborns, it also commonly afflicts obese women or those who have had many children.
A hiatal hernia happens when the upper stomach squeezes through the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus passes. Symptoms/Signs of Hernia
The most common symptom of a hernia is a bulge or lump in the affected area. In the case of an inguinal hernia, you may notice a lump on either side of your pubic bone where your groin and thigh meet. Youre more likely to feel your hernia through touch when youre standing up.
If your baby has a hernia, you may only be able to feel the bulge when he or she is crying. A bulge is typically the only symptom of an umbilical hernia.
Other common symptoms of an inguinal hernia include:
Pain or discomfort in the affected area (usually the lower abdomen), especially when bending over, coughing
Pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen a burning,
Gurgling, or aching sensation at the site of the bulge
Symptoms of a hiatal hernia include:
- Acid reflux, which is when stomach acid moves backward into the esophagus causing a burning sensation
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- A physical exam by your doctors could be used to diagnose a hernia.
- Sometimes hernia swelling is visible when you stand upright, this would help your doctor to see it easily.
- If you place your hand directly over it and then bear down, you can feel it.
- Ultrasound may be used to see a femoral hernia, and abdominal
- X-rays may be ordered to determine if a bowel obstruction is present.
As was previously mentioned, most hernias are caused by genetics, usually some structural weakness in the facia lining of the abdominal wall thats beyond our control. But regardless of genetics there are still some simple preventative measures that you can take to help prevent getting a hernia. Workout & Lift Weights: A lot of bodybuilders and weight lifters are afraid of getting a hernia when lifting weights. Which is understandable, but the good news is that when done properly a regular weight lifting routine can actually help prevent hernias from occurring in the first place.
Strength training builds up the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues. Bodybuilders and weight lifters will have a stronger abdominal wall lining compared to sedentary individuals, and thus are less likely to tear that lining when lifting. A lot of times acquired hernias happen to people who are out of shape and then all of a sudden perform some type of heavy lifting such as; moving furniture, pushing a stuck car, or doing heavy manual labor that their body is not accustomed to performing.
Now even though working out and keeping active can help prevent a hernia, you still need to be smart about it. A lot of the general workout tips for injury prevention will also apply to hernia prevention. Start Each Workout With A Good Warm Up – I have posted a video outlining a complete warm up routine that you can follow before each weight training workout here.
Progress Slow & Steady – Lift within your means and when you increase the weights you are lifting, do so in small increments. Youll make better progress and reduce your risk of injury by making frequent small increments in weight, rather than trying to make too big of a jump and lifting too much too soon.
Breathe Into Your Belly – The best way to breathe when lifting weights is abdominal breathing. When you breathe in your should feel your stomach expand, and when you breathe out your stomach should contract. Practice this when you are in the gym. As you lower the weight, breathe in and expand your belly. Then when you lift the weight, blow your air out and let your belly contract. This style of breathing is not only safer, but it will make you feel stronger as well because it helps to stabilize your torso when lifting.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: Another big risk factor for hernias is being overweight. Carrying a lot of extra weight around the stomach will stretch and weaken the abdominal lining and increase your risk of having a hernia. This is another plus for bodybuilders and athletes because they are more likely to be leaner and maintain a healthy body weight compared to sedentary individuals.
Avoid Smoking: Im pretty sure everyone who is reading this article right now knows that smoking is unhealthy. So Im not going to bore you with an anti-smoking pitch. But you probably didnt know that smoking can increase your risk of getting a hernia. Smoking loads your body with dangerous toxins that adversely effect the bodys ability to produce enzymes which promote cell creation and growth. This can weaken the abdominal lining. In addition to that, heavy coughing (which is common among smokers) can cause the weakened abdominal lining to tear and cause a hernia.
Move Your Bowels: If you are constipated and have to strain in order to have a bowel movement this is putting a lot of pressure on the muscles and connective tissue in your abdomen. This could result in tearing the abdominal lining. To help keep yourself regular make sure to eat a healthy diet that is high in natural unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
You should also drink lots of water (about 1 gallon per day for bodybuilders and athletes). In addition to keeping you hydrated, water flushes toxins out of your body and it also flushes the bowels so that its easier to have a poop. Ideally you should have a poop at least once or twice per day. If you are not doing a popo everyday, than you are constipated and should change your dietary habits and check with your doctor.
Treatment for Hernia
Treatment for hernia varies according to the age and general health of the patient as well as the type and severity of hernia involved. While some hernias resolve themselves, surgery is often required. Repair of hernia is often carried out on outpatient basis.
Hernia surgery involves an incision at the hernial site after which the surgeon will either move the protruding contents of the hernia back into the abdominal cavity or remove the contents altogether. The latter option may be used in cases where the intestines are strangulated. Following repair, the weakened tissue that contributed to the development of the hernia will be closed and reinforced with stitching or (in the case of larger hernias) synthetic mesh. Following surgery, intravenous fluids and pain-medication will generally be given.
Light activities can often be resumed within days of hospital release, but strenuous activity must be strictly avoided until healing is complete. In most cases, this requires six to eight weeks.
If a hernia suddenly becomes large or painful, try to make it go back in by lying with the feet higher than the head and pressing gently on the bulge. If it will not go back, seek medical help.
Hernia Home Remedies/Home Cure
- Ginger root is known to help in protecting the esophagus and stomach from damage due to buildup of gastric acids and bile. But keep in mind that in some cases, ginger root may lead to a stomach upset.
- Hernias in the abdominal region may lead to acid reflux. The herb chamomile helps to soothe the lining of the digestive tract and reduces the production of stomach acids. It also helps to soothe esophageal lining. Some people may experience nausea after using chamomile.
- Marshmallow root has many health benefits such as improved digestion and decreased production of digestive acids. It may thus help to alleviate hernia-related symptoms. However in rare cases it may trigger diarrhea.
- Hawthornia is an herbal supplement which helps to strengthen the muscles that support and protect the internal organs. It may even help to stop a hernia from developing and prevent its recurrence. Hawthornia consists of herbs such as citrus seed, hawthorn and fennel.
- The herb Shepherds purse helps to relieve inflammation, pain and swelling. It can also reduce bleeding and infection. Its tincture may be applied externally to the hernia-affected area to alleviate the symptoms. The herb may also be taken internally in the form of supplements.
- Hernia pain may be relieved through acupuncture. The stimulation of certain pressure points is known to help in reducing pain and discomfort. Such alternative therapies may not be effective in curing the problem, but they may help in dealing with the symptoms.
- Engage in gentle exercises which target the core abdominal muscles. Regular practice of such exercises helps to shed excess body weight and thus lowers the pressure on the abdominal muscles. However avoid any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting. It is best to have a discussion with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Avoid exercising immediately after eating and wait for about two to three hours.
- Stress can aggravate stomach ailments and acid reflux. Therefore it is advisable to manage stress effectively through various techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises and meditation.
- Ice compresses are one of the best home remedies for hernia. They may help to alleviate pain and swelling caused by the hernia.
- Avoid applying any heat or pressure to the affected area.
- Avoid exercising on a full stomach.
- Tight clothes can exert pressure on the abdomen and hence it is advisable to wear only loose, comfortable clothing.
- Keep the head of your bed elevated by about six inches as this will prevent gastric acids from travelling back into the esophagus during sleep. Use bricks to elevate the bed frame and avoid using pillows as they may increase stress on the abdomen.
- Avoid eating large meals and opt for smaller, frequent meals throughout the day.
- Refrain from lying down or bending soon after eating.
- Avoid consuming alcohol.
An untreated hernia may be complicated by:
- Autoimmune problems
- Obstruction of any lumen, such as bowel obstruction in intestinal hernias
- Hydrocele of the hernial sac