How to Exercise After Inguinal Hernia Surgery

Strengthening your core can help you recover after a hernia surgery and also keep future hernias at bay.
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If fitness is an important part of your life, chances are, you're wondering what your doctor will say about inguinal hernia surgery recovery time and exercise. While individual recovery time varies, you can expect to be up and moving around within a few weeks after surgery.

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However, you'll want to be mindful of the types of movement and intensity of exercise after hernia surgery.

What Is an Inguinal Hernia?

Finding a bulge in your abdomen or around your inguinal canal above your groin can be a bit nerve-wracking. Fortunately, if this bulge is a result of an inguinal hernia, your doctor can perform a common surgical procedure to take care of the problem.

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And the best part? Provided there are no complications, most people can return home the same day of surgery, according to University of Michigan Health.

An inguinal hernia is a bulge that protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles, according to the Mayo Clinic. This bulge is made up of tissue, usually fat, or part of the small intestine. As it protrudes through the abdomen, you may experience pain when you cough, bend over or twist your torso.

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While anyone can develop a hernia, inguinal hernias are much more common in men than they are in women, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The general recommendation for open inguinal hernia surgery recovery time is around three weeks, per University of Michigan Health. Most people can drive after around two weeks and return to light activity by the third week.

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Laparoscopic hernia repair recovery time is generally less than open hernia repair and people tend to experience less pain. With this procedure, you can expect to designate one to two weeks as the recovery period.

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Exercise After Inguinal Hernia Surgery

Once the recovery period is over and the pain subsides, you might be ready to jump back into your regular fitness routine. But before you head back to the gym, it's important to note that just because the inguinal hernia surgery recovery time is over, that doesn't mean your body is ready for intense exercise.

That said, you can resume some physical activities. David Geier, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, tells LIVESTRONG.com that you can usually start light exercise, such as walking outside or on a treadmill, in the first few days after inguinal hernia repair surgery.

In the weeks following inguinal hernia surgery, sometimes one to two weeks post-surgery, Dr. Geier says you can usually perform light exercise and activity such as walking or gently riding a stationary bike.

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Core Exercises After Hernia Surgery

Having a strong core can help prevent future hernias, according to Harvard Health Publishing, which means performing exercises that target your abdominals is critical as you move from recovery to regular life.

However, training this part of your body too soon can interfere with recovery and likely cause some pain, especially since inguinal hernias occur in the abdomen.

When it comes to doing core exercises after hernia surgery, Dr. Geier says to be aware that you may feel tender and a little weak in your abdominal area. This is a great time to research core exercises and ask your physician or physical therapist to help you develop a training program specific to your needs. As soon as you feel strong enough to try abdominal exercises, start with basic moves like a pelvic tilt or Pilates toe taps.

"Aim to build strength in your core, which are the muscle groups in and around your abdomen and lower back," Dr. Geier says. Most people can resume core and abdominal exercises about six weeks after hernia repair surgery.

Once you resume exercise, talk to your physician immediately if you experience any unusual pain, discomfort, or weakness in or around the inguinal area. If specific core exercises seem to trigger the pain, discontinue those moves, and talk with a physical therapist or sports medicine expert about other abdominal exercises you can do instead.

Exercises to Avoid After Hernia Surgery

As Dr. Geier points out, most surgeons recommend you avoid heavy lifting in the gym or otherwise, for at least four to six weeks after surgery. According to Boston Hernia, a hernia-focused surgical practice based in Wellesley, Massachusetts, you should avoid lifting anything over 25 pounds.

You should also avoid repetitive movement, such as running, cycling, squatting, bending or twisting, according to Boston Hernia.

After that time period is up, you can begin to return to normal activity slowly. As you begin to ramp up your exercise routine, it's important to listen to your body and scale it back if needed, according to Boston Hernia.

And as we mentioned above, talk to your care team if you're having pain or other issues around the area where your hernia was. Everyone — and every hernia surgery — is different, so these generalized recommendations might not be the best fit for all individuals.

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