A hernia occurs when an inner body part pushes through a weakness in the muscle or tissue wall that usually holds it in place. Hernias typically occur in the abdomen or groin. They can be painful and often cause a bulge-like appearance.
Some hernias are preventable, and there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing a hernia.
What increases your risk of a hernia?
Some people may be predisposed to developing a hernia due to a medical condition, while for others, lifestyle factors may contribute to the increased risk of developing a hernia.
The most common hernia risk factors are:
Some hernias, such as inguinal hernias, are more common in older adults. This is because as we age, our abdominal muscles can weaken, increasing our susceptibility to developing a hernia.
Smoking can impair wound healing, putting those who have had previous hernia surgery at increased risk of developing another hernia. Some smokers may also be more susceptible to persistent coughing bouts, which can strain the abdomen even more.
Being overweight can also increase pressure on the abdominal muscles, causing them to become weaker over time, increasing the likelihood of having a hernia.
Certain medical conditions can make you more prone to hernias.
Those with chronic constipation or men with enlarged prostates may strain more when going to the toilet, which can add pressure to the abdominal muscles, causing them to become weaker.
Persistent coughing or sneezing can also lead to increased abdominal pressure and a greater risk of developing a hernia.
Expectant mothers may also be at greater risk of having a hernia as pregnancy causes additional pressure around the abdomen.
Some activities carry a greater risk of injury to the abdominal or groin muscles. For example, sports such as football, skiing, and rugby, where the torso or pelvis has to twist regularly, can increase your chances of tearing or injuring a muscle in that area.
Repeatedly lifting weights that are too heavy or overexerting yourself when exercising are also common risk factors for developing a hernia.
How to prevent a hernia
Some hernias, such as those present since birth, cannot be prevented. However, for other types of hernias, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk.
Practice safe lifting
Whether you lift and carry heavy items for work or enjoy weight training as a form of exercise, it’s important to ensure you practise safe lifting techniques to prevent unnecessary strain and pressure on the abdominal area.
Make sure you are only lifting or carrying what is comfortable for you, always maintaining correct form. Remember to bend from your knees, keep a straight back and use the strength of your leg muscles to lift.
Strengthen abdominal muscles
One of the most effective hernia prevention strategies is to strengthen your core.
Undertaking yoga, Pilates, or strength training exercises that target your pelvic and abdominal muscles can help keep those muscles strong and healthy, reducing your risk of hernia.
If you already have a hernia, there will be exercises you have to avoid in order to prevent the hernia from worsening. Your healthcare provider will be able to advise you on safe ways to exercise.
Maintain a healthy diet and weight
Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can reduce unnecessary pressure on the abdomen.
Eating a diet rich in fibrous foods, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and staying properly hydrated can also help regulate your bowel movements to prevent constipation and excessive straining.
Seek treatment for medical conditions
Some medical conditions may cause symptoms that increase your risk of a hernia. For example, the chronic coughing or sneezing that may be brought on by asthma or other allergies can increase pressure on the abdomen. Therefore, managing your symptoms well may help reduce your risk of developing a hernia.
Hernia treatment at Ramsay Health Care
Although taking these steps can help reduce your risk of having a hernia, it may not always be possible to prevent one from developing.
Fortunately, Ramsay Health Care is here to help. We offer quick and easy access to appointments so that one of our expert consultants can diagnose you in a timely manner and recommend the most appropriate form of treatment or surgery for you.