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Hernia Relief Without Surgery? It's Possible.

A strange bump on your abdomen or groin that gets bigger when you cough.  Constant heartburn and other reflux symptoms that don’t ever seem to go away.  A lumpy scar on your belly that hurts when you sneeze.  

All of these symptoms could mean you have a hernia.  Let’s take the next few paragraphs to clue you into all the essential things to know about hernias and how to solve them before resorting to hernia surgery.  

At Miologi, we aim to arm you with the most current knowledge on a variety of health conditions and wellness challenges. 

Hernia Overview

A hernia happens when a “wall: of muscle tissue grows week and an organ protrudes through the weak spot.  Hernias typically show up in the abdominal wall, the groin, and the upper thigh. 

They can also hide inside your abdominal cavity in the diaphragm muscle which separates your abdomen (the part of your body containing the stomach and intestines)from your thorax (the body cavity containing the lungs and heart.)

Hernias are classified as follows:

  • Inguinal hernias:  most common in males, but also possible in females, this hernia is a bump in the groin area where the abdominal and leg muscles connect.  The inguinal canal contains a duct that carries sperm and other fluids between the testes and the body.  In females, the inguinal canal houses a tendon that helps support the uterus.  Since the abdominal wall is thin here, it’s a primary spot for hernias to develop.  

  • Hiatal hernias:  This condition occurs when a portion of the diaphragm surrounding the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus becomes weak, and part of the stomach bubbles past the diaphragm into the chest cavity.  

  • Umbilical hernias: These occur infants after birth, and present as a bulge in the belly button area.  Most umbilical hernias correct themselves within the child’s first year of development, but some require surgery to repair.

  • Incisional hernias: A lump that appears around an incision from a surgery where the abdominal wall was cut and then stitched together.  

Hernia Causes

When a weakened abdominal wall combines with a lot of muscular strain, such as with chronic cough, or bowel movement straining from constipation, a hernia may develop.  You are at higher risk for a hernia if you:

  • Had recent abdominal surgery

  • Are male

  • Have a family history of hernias of any kind

  • A chronic cough

  • Are a smoker (which can cause persistent coughing)

  • Are chronically constipated

  • Are pregnant (pregnancy places extra weight or strain on the abdomen)

  • Are significantly overweight or have gained weight quickly

In babies, parents may notice a bump on the baby’s tummy when they are crying (the baby flexes his abdominal muscles to cry, which can make the hernia “lump” more noticeable)

Hernia Diagnosis

If you suspect you may have a hernia, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may ask you to cough or blow out your cheeks while holding your breath to check the hernia location and assess the level of severity.  

In the case of a suspected hiatal hernia, your doctor will ask you about acid reflux symptoms and may also schedule an endoscopy (threading a small camera down your esophagus) or a barium x-ray.  For a  barium x-ray,  the patient swallows liquid barium that coats the inside of the digestive organs, making them visible on an x-ray.)

Hernia Treatment

Once your doctor obtains an accurate diagnosis, he or she will recommend several treatment options.  Hernia surgery is required if the hernia is severe enough to put you at risk for complications like:

  • Strangulation:  Blood supply to the organ at the site of the hernia is cut off, causing the tissue to die.  This is a life-threatening condition and should be treated as an emergency.

  • Bowel obstruction: A region of the intestine becomes trapped in the abdominal wall at the hernia site.  Digested food cannot freely move through the intestine, resulting in severe pain, constipation, and nausea.

  • Pain and swelling near the hernia site.

Treatment administered at the first sign of hernia may reduce the need for surgery.  For hiatal hernias, try the following:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals

  • Reduce dietary fats and processed foods

  • Stay away from spicy foods

  • Have your last meal of the day several hours before bedtime

  • Manage your weight

Many doctors will prescribe over-the-counter or prescription acid reducers or proton-pump inhibitors to lessen reflux symptoms.  Even with medication and other lifestyle changes, the hiatal hernia will stay present in the body without surgery.  If your symptoms do not improve after lifestyle changes and medication, you and your doctor may decide that surgery is the best option for relief.

For abdominal, inguinal, and incisional hernia, your doctor will help you decide whether surgery is best or not. You can take action to keep a hernia from worsening.  Here are a few tips that may help you avoid hernia surgery:

  • Keep your immune system in optimal shape (to prevent chronic cough), 

  • Carefully select muscle strengthening exercises with your physical therapist

  • Eat a healthy diet high in fiber to help to avoid constipation (straining while having a bowel movement)

  • Stop smoking (to lessen the chance of chronic cough)

  • Ensure proper lifting technique, or ask your doctor about wearing a support belt around the affected area while lifting heavier loads.

What to Expect With Surgery

Recovery time and surgery type depend on the severity and location of the hernia. Your doctor should cover all your options for the procedure itself (laparoscopic or open abdominal) as well as recovery time and protocol.  

Plan to take several weeks off from strenuous activity post-surgery, with a slow build-up back to regular activity.  Talk to your doctor about post-surgery pain management and supporting your body with rest and outside support from others during your recovery.  

A hernia diagnosis is manageable with help from your healthcare team.  Be sure to assemble health providers you trust when taking action on you or your child’s hernia.  If you adhere well to your doctor’s recommendation, you can likely resume normal activity before too long!

Final Remarks

At Miologi, we care about your needs and health concerns. We support you in optimizing your wellness--naturally!