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How to prevent a Hernia

A hernia develops when a section of your intestine, or other tissue in your abdomen, pushes through a layer of muscle that has become weakened.

Most often, this happens when part of your intestine pushes through your abdominal wall toward the outside of your body. This is called an external hernia, and it usually affects the lower abdomen and groin.

Each type of hernia has different causes, which means that the steps you can take to prevent them will also be somewhat different.

Not all hernias, though, are preventable. There are certain factors outside your control – such as prior abdominal surgery, and muscle weakness that you’re born with – that can lead to a hernia no matter what preventive steps you take.

  • Groin- inguinal hernias and femoral hernias

  • Belly button- umbilical hernias

  • Previous operation site- incisional hernia

You cannot prevent the weakness in the abdominal wall that leads to you getting a hernia but not smoking, avoiding constipation and maintaining a healthy weight should reduce the risk.

Smoking can cause coughing, which can put pressure on your abdomen and lead to a hernia or worsen symptoms if you already have one.

Constipation can lead to straining and increases pressure on the abdominal wall. You can avoid constipation by maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and fibre as well drinking plenty of fluids.

Obesity places the abdominal wall under constant pressure from the excessive body fat. Losing weight will reduce the risk of developing a hernia but if you already have a hernia and need an operation having a healthy weight will certainly reduce the risk of a hernia coming back after its been repaired.

Being physically active may help to prevent hernias, but other types of exercise can put too much pressure on your abdomen.

Beneficial exercises which strengthen the core may include:

  • Yoga

  • Pilates

  • Sit-ups or crunches

  • Light weights

  • Aerobic activities, like running or cycling

Any type of exercise than involves very high levels of exertion may also increase your hernia risk. In particular activities to avoid include high impact activities such as jumping. Exercises such as squats or weight lifting can increase pressure on the abdominal wall. Fast or sudden twisting movements can also lead to muscle tearing.

If you already have a hernia or have had a hernia repaired previously you can prevent them from getting worse or coming back if you follow these 5 simple points:

  • Avoid heavy lifting if possible.

  • If you need to lift heavy objects, use your legs and not your back.

  • Don’t get constipated or have to strain during a bowel movement.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Don’t smoke.

If you have a hernia or have recently had one repaired you should talk to your doctor, physiotherapist or personal trainer about any exercise that you’re considering.

10-15% of people who have had an abdominal operation will develop an incisional hernia. If you have had a recent abdominal operation, following this advice can also help to prevent you developing an incisional hernia at the operation site.

Find out more

To find out more about hernias, please contact the Manchester Hernia Clinic on 0161 495 7754.

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