Exercise and Inguinal Hernias

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Swimming is a great exercise if you have an inguinal hernia.
Image Credit: Zac Macaulay/Cultura/GettyImages

Although you might hear of stress causing inguinal hernias, they can also occur from muscle weakness or be self-inflicted from straining due to heavy lifting. Inguinal hernia treatment involves exercising properly and avoiding specific types of movements until your pain subsides.

Read more: How to Prevent Workout Injuries From Sidelining Your Fitness Routine

What Is an Inguinal Hernia?

An inguinal hernia occurs when part of the small intestine or small bowel protrudes through a weak area of muscle in the lower abdomen. To better understand an inguinal hernia, especially if you received a diagnosis, the following is background information:

Causes will vary. A hernia can occur due to several reasons, including pregnancy, chronic coughing, injuring your muscles, gastrointestinal issues and a pre-existing weak spot in the abdominal wall, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Harvard Health Publishing says inguinal hernias are 10 times more common in men. This is because of the way the testicles form as they move down the inguinal canal, enlarging the passageway. In women, the inguinal canal is smaller. The ligament of the uterus in the inguinal canal also acts as a barrier for bulges or protrusions to pass.

Among adults, your chances of a diagnosis go up as you age. Researchers also estimate that about 3 percent of women and 27 percent of men will develop one at some point in their lives. This means that one in four men will have an inguinal hernia, per the statistics from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Inguinal hernia treatment needs to involve a medical professional. You should immediately contact your doctor if you find a lump or feel tenderness or heaviness in the groin area, says the Mayo Clinic. An inguinal hernia won't disappear on its own and surgical repair is often necessary for a full recovery.

Exercising With a Hernia

When a hernia causes complications, such as becoming stuck or strangulated — symptoms of these conditions include sudden or severe tenderness, vomiting and fever — you need to speak immediately with a medical professional, according to the NIDDK, and avoid all exercise.

You can still exercise with a hernia as long as you have few or no symptoms. Appropriate aerobic and anaerobic exercises include swimming laps, bicycling and moderate weightlifting with proper form.

If you have surgery for a hernia, you may need to wear a truss, or supportive device. However, this won't necessarily guard against possible complications of surgery such as pain and swelling.

But you should keep exercising after surgery, even if you don't feel like doing so, per a May 2019 clinical trial study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Researchers suggest that reduced physical activity could lead to physical deconditioning and chronic post-surgical pain.

Read more: How to Exercise After Inguinal Hernia Surgery

After you have recovered from an inguinal hernia, you should stay cognizant of the types of exercises you do to circumvent a relapse. Exercises should avoid include any movements that involve heavy lifting, sudden twists or pulls that can cause discomfort, according to the NIDDK.

To prevent a potential hernia, you should perform regular exercises that can strengthen abdominal muscles. If you don't prefer these types of movements, Harvard Health Publishing offers some key tips:

  • Take a little break at work and do modified push-ups against a desk.
  • March in place and intentionally draw in the abs while you brush your teeth.
  • When taking a phone call, stand with your back against the wall and activate your abs.
  • Watch TV while you are on the floor and do some ab exercises.

You should also always strive to bend from the knees and not the waist when lifting heavy objects, says the Mayo Clinic.

Read more: 3 Simple Stretches to Help Relieve Hip Pain

Is This an Emergency?

To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 infections, it is best to call your doctor before leaving the house if you are experiencing a high fever, shortness of breath or another, more serious symptom.
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