Weight Lifting & Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when a small part of your stomach pokes through a hole in the wall of your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is the muscle that controls breathing and is located in your abdomen. Hiatal hernias can be mild and asymptomatic or they can become large and produce heartburn. Weight lifting, either as a sport or as part of your everyday routine, can play a role in the development of hiatal hernias.

Causes of Hiatal Hernias

Several of the causes of a hiatal hernia can be related to weight lifting. Lifting heavy weights, sustaining an abdominal injury and straining are all potential causes of a hiatal hernia. These are all factors that may be consistent with weight lifting--straining the stomach muscles can cause a weakness in the diaphragm wall, creating a hole. Other risk factors for developing this type of hernia are being overweight, having a forceful or persistent cough or putting undue pressure on the abdominal region through tight clothing and belts.


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Weight lifters can prevent a hiatal hernia by learning to lift the correct way. Personal trainers stress the importance of bending from the knees when lifting, rather than from the waist, which can create excessive pressure on the chest and diaphragm. Lifters should also choose their weights carefully according to their strength; overdoing a weight-lifting session with weights that are too heavy can strain your muscles and might lead to a hernia. Strengthening your core muscles through crunches or bridges can keep you strong and healthy and reduces the risk of a muscle weakness indicative of a hiatal hernia.

Lie on your back on the floor with your hands clasped behind your head and knees bent to perform a crunch. Tighten your stomach and lift your head and shoulders off the floor, keeping your feet flat on the floor. To form a bridge, lie on your back with your arms at your sides and knees bent. Contract your stomach muscles and lift your hips off the floor.

Restriction of Activities

You may lift weights and not realize you have a hiatal hernia if you don't develop the main symptom of acid reflux. Upon discovery of a hernia, your doctor may restrict your weightlifting activities if they think the sport is interfering with your health. Because excess pressure in the abdominal region can cause a hernia to worsen, you may need to work with lighter weights, or switch to hand weights until you've had your hernia repaired.



Small and moderate-sized hiatal hernias often do not require invasive treatment and are treated on the basis of relieving your heartburn symptoms. Large hernias, including those that strangulate, must be attended to in order to avoid complications. A strangulated hernia is a condition in which the portion of your stomach that pokes through the diaphragm twists, and cuts off the circulation to that area of your body. Once you have had surgery to repair a hiatal hernia, you'll need to discuss your weight-lifting plans with your doctor; the site of the hernia may always have a tendency toward weakness and might recur in the future.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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