You may have heard about hernia pain from a colleague or friend who’s had one. Knowing it’s a condition that may require an operation, you want to do what you can to avoid developing a hernia. The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to avoid a painful hernia and the surgery that’s often required.
Hernias occur when body tissue -- oftentimes the intestines -- pushes through weakened muscle, creating a lump under your skin that can be very painful. They usually occur in your abdomen or groin. Hernias can develop slowly over a number of years, or they can develop suddenly after rigorous activities such as heavy lifting.
About 75% of hernias are inguinal hernias, when a section of the small intestine or tissue pushes through the groin, or the scrotum in men. Up to one quarter of men develop an inguinal hernia during their lives.
Our providers here at Desert West Surgery in Las Vegas share the following tips to help you avoid a hernia.
Maintain a healthy weight
Keeping your weight as close as possible to the recommended number is one of the most important things you can do to avoid a hernia. What is the correlation between being overweight and hernias? When you’re overweight, the excess body fat puts undue pressure on your abdominal wall, weakening the muscles holding your organs in place. Eventually, a body part can break through the weakened muscle tissue.
Get the right kind of exercise
Getting enough exercise is part of a healthy life. However, too much heavy lifting can result in a hernia. If you lift weights during your workout at the gym, don’t try to go beyond your limits.
Healthy stretching and certain types of exercise can help strengthen your abdominal wall. Some of these include yoga, pilates, crunches (when done correctly,) and many aerobic activities such as biking or jogging.
If you’re already at risk of developing a hernia, avoid jumps and squats that put pressure on the abdominal wall. Also avoid jerky movements when lifting weights, which can lead to muscle tears.
Use correct posture when lifting objects
If you need to lift a heavy object, bend at the knees rather than the waist so that your legs support you rather than using your abdominal muscles -- or ask for help rather than extend yourself beyond your ability. Extended snow shoveling and similar lifting activities can result in a hernia, too.
Avoid becoming constipated
Chronic straining from being constipated can lead to an umbilical hernia when part of your intestine or abdominal tissue pops through the muscular wall near your belly button and creates a bulge. You can avoid constipation by eating a healthy diet that incorporates fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fiber foods, like beans and peas. Fiber supplements and probiotics can also help you avoid becoming constipated.
If you’re having surgery, be sure to take extra precautions, such as using a stool softener and fiber supplement after the operation, because anesthesia and some pain medications can cause constipation.
Don’t smoke, and get treated for a persistent cough
There’s a reason smoking has been banned in most public venues in the United States -- it’s dangerous to your health. The chronic cough that may result from smoking can lead to an umbilical hernia over a period of time. If you have COPD or another chronic lung disease, work with your physician to ensure that your cough is under control.
If you do develop a hernia, surgery is the only way to resolve it. Call one of our three Desert West Surgery offices to schedule a consultation for expert hernia repair or other surgical needs.