Some people live with them for decades, then find they need surgery. Hernias are fairly common. They affect men and women equally and at all ages.
A hernia is a hole or a defect in the abdominal wall muscle that normally holds your body’s abdominal organs. According to the North Penn Hernia Institute, it can be either a congenital or an acquired problem. Some patients find it helpful to think of it as a bubble in an old tire, where the inner tube is able to push through the tire.
If you’re facing hernia surgery, you probably want to know how soon you’ll be able to exercise or resume strenuous activity. The answer varies, depending on the patient’s circumstances. While most hernia surgeries are same-day procedures, if you’ve had previous major abdominal surgery and require a traditional incision and longer-than-average hospital stay, your recovery could take longer. To some extent, the answer also varies on the type of hernia you have and the exact technique your surgeon chooses. Here are the three types that most commonly occur:
Inguinal. It develops due to a weakness, gap, tear or opening in the muscle wall of the groin or lower abdomen. Abdominal contents – especially intestines – can protrude through the opening. You’ll note a bulge and feel pain. Generally, the most active you are, the more it hurts.
Umbilical. It’s named for the site where it develops: in and around your navel. You feel pain in the area and will see a bulge or navel deformity so that your belly button pushes outward instead of inward. While this type of hernia frequently appears at or right after birth, it can develop at any point afterward.
Hiatal. According to the Mayo Clinic, this type of hernia occurs when your stomach pushes through a hole in your diaphragm. While it’s a frequently occurring hernia, it’s most often treated with dietary changes and medication. Surgery is normally used only for emergency situations and for patients who’ve had no luck taking medications to ease heartburn and acid reflux. Usually, it’s a laparoscopic surgery but can be done one of several ways.
MedlinePlus has extensive information available on surgery for an umbilical hernia. It advises that if you’re like most patients, you’ll go home the same day as your surgery. However, to prevent this type of hernia from returning, you’ll have to avoid heavy lifting, bending and twisting for a few weeks. Your doctor will assist you in determining when you should head back to work and whether you’ll have any restrictions once you get there.
The North Penn Hernia Institute suggests that shortly after surgery, most patients can resume brisk walking, using a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. Jogging, gentle swimming and light golf come next.
Within a week after surgery, you might be ready for moderate aerobic exercise, light to moderate free weights and other activity such as skating, bowling, softball, hiking and light tennis. Between 10 and 12 days following your procedure, you should be able to resume most sports and recreational activities. Examples include cycling, mountain biking and full tennis.
Once you reach two weeks post-op, if you’re like most patients, you should be ready for unlimited activity, including competitive spots and limited weight lifting. However, since each patient’s situation is different, you should consult your physician before resuming any physical activity after surgery.