How to prevent a hernia

Sometimes painful, occasionally serious but always unwanted, hernias are a fairly common medical condition. They occur when part of an internal organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or tissue. While it’s not always possible to prevent a hernia, there are ways to reduce your risk of developing one. Join us as we explore how.

A main wearing a waist belt holding his back in pain

What causes a hernia?

While some hernias are caused by genetic factors or other medical conditions, others occur purely because of a person’s lifestyle.

A hernia can be caused by a combination of muscle weakness and strain. For example, lifting heavy objects as part of a manual job or persistent coughing brought about by smoking.

Risk factors

While hernias are usually caused by physical strain, there are some other risk factors that can make you more susceptible. These include:

  • ageing
  • obesity
  • previous surgery
  • chronic constipation.

Are hernias hereditary?

While hernias are not usually considered a hereditary condition, there may be some genetic factors that can contribute to developing one. With that said, it is widely acknowledged among medical professionals that further studies are needed in this area.

Do women get hernias?

Yes. While some hernias are more common in men (such as inguinal hernias), femoral hernias tend to be more common in women. Pregnancy, childbirth and abdominal surgery can all increase the risk of developing a hernia for women.

Can you prevent a hernia?

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent a hernia, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing one. Take a look at the advice below to learn how.

Can exercise prevent hernias?

While exercise can’t prevent hernias, it can help to prevent them. The right type of exercise can help to strengthen the muscles of your abdominal wall and reduce the risk of organs or tissue squeezing through any gaps. Regular cardiovascular exercise (such as walking, running or cycling) improves your overall fitness. In turn, this reduces your risk of obesity and other health conditions that can increase your risk of developing a hernia.

Remember to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you have a history of hernias or other health conditions. Your doctor can help you to develop a safe and effective exercise program.

Do strong abs prevent hernias?

Strong abs alone won’t prevent a hernia. They will, however, reduce the risk of developing one by supporting the muscles in your abdomen. It’s important to take a comprehensive approach that focuses on your overall health.

Do belts prevent hernias?

While some people find wearing supportive belts helpful, they do not necessarily prevent you from developing a hernia.

Talk to your doctor before using any type of supportive device. They may not be appropriate or effective for all types of hernias or individuals.

Tips for hernia prevention

So, that’s exercise and supportive equipment covered. Now it’s time to branch out and look at more general advice. From posture improvement to quitting smoking, the information below is designed to improve your general health and reduce the risk of developing a hernia.

Learn to lift safely

If you need to lift heavy objects, make sure you use proper lifting techniques to avoid straining your muscles. Bend at the knees, not the waist and keep the object close to your body.

Maintaining a healthy body weight for you

Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing a hernia. Carrying excess body weight puts pressure on your muscles and tissues. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet can help reduce your risk, as well as keeping you healthy.

Fire up your core

You should concentrate on exercises that focus on strengthening your core muscles. These include sit-ups, planks and pelvic tilts, and all will help to improve the strength and stability of your abdominal muscles.

Weight training can also help strengthen your muscles and improve your overall strength. Be sure to use proper lifting techniques and avoid lifting heavy weights that could put excess strain on your muscles.

Stop smoking

Smoking can weaken your muscles and increase your risk of developing a hernia. Quitting smoking improves your overall health and reduces your risk of developing hernias and other medical conditions.

Improve your bowel health

Straining during bowel movements can increase your risk of developing a hernia. To avoid constipation, drink plenty of water, eat a high-fibre diet and exercise regularly.

Avoid excess strain

Chronic coughing can put extra strain on your muscles and increase your risk of developing a hernia. If you have a chronic cough, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Listen to your body when exercising

Be careful not to overdo it when lifting weights or exercising. Excessive muscle strain or injury can cause hernias.

Wear supportive clothing

If you have a job or hobby that requires a lot of standing or heavy lifting, consider wearing supportive clothing such as a hernia belt or compression shorts to help support your muscles. Simple things such as these can reduce your risk of developing a hernia.

Improve your posture

Poor posture can put extra strain on your muscles and increase your risk of developing a hernia. Be sure to sit and stand up straight and avoid slouching or hunching over.

Don’t ignore health issues

Regular check-ups with your doctor can help detect hernias early and prevent them from becoming more serious. If you have a family history of hernias or other risk factors, talk to your doctor about preventative measures.

How to prevent a hernia from getting worse

If you have already been diagnosed with a hernia, you can still work to prevent it from getting worse by following the tips mentioned above.

In some cases, hernia repair surgery might be the best option to prevent serious complications. If your hernia is large, growing or causing discomfort, surgery may be recommended by your doctor.

It’s important to talk to your doctor about any new symptoms or concerns you may have about your hernia and to follow their recommendations for treatment and prevention. If complications occur, such as strangulation, it could turn into a medical emergency. Learn more about the benefits and risks of hernia surgery.

Don’t wait to treat your hernia

It’s important to note that while these tips can help to reduce your risk of developing a hernia, there is no proven way to prevent one. If you experience any of the symptoms documented above, you should seek medical attention. Early treatment can prove crucial to preventing serious complications.

Hernia prevention FAQs

Not yet found the information you’re looking for? Our dedicated hernia FAQs might be able to help find the answers you need.

A hiatus hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes through the opening in the diaphragm, which can cause acid reflux and other symptoms.

Prevention tips include:

  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • avoiding tight-fitting clothes
  • practising good posture
  • avoiding lying down immediately after eating
  • avoiding foods that can trigger acid reflux (such as spicy or fatty foods).

An inguinal hernia occurs when a portion of the intestine or abdominal tissue protrudes through a weakened area in either the groin, inguinal canal or abdominal wall.

To reduce the risk, follow our main prevention tips above and speak to your doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing.

An umbilical hernia occurs when a portion of the abdominal tissue or intestine pushes through a weakened area near the belly button.

The prevention tips documented above will help to reduce the risk of developing a hernia. You should speak to your doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing.

After any type of surgery, it is important to take proper care to prevent the risk of developing an incisional hernia. You should seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • discomfort in the tummy or groin area after surgery.

Your healthcare provider should be able to arrange personalised advice and management strategies to help prevent and manage hernias after surgery.

After laparoscopic surgery, it is important to take proper care to prevent the risk of developing a hernia. This includes following your surgeon’s instructions, returning to your normal activities gradually and resting.

Sports hernias can happen to athletes and those who play sports that involve sudden changes of direction, twisting movements or repetitive kicking. To prevent this from occurring make sure to:

  • warm up and stretch before exercising
  • strengthen the core and pelvic muscles with exercises such as planks, bridges and squats
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • wear the right athletic clothing with proper support
  • gradually increase the intensity and duration of activities
  • prioritise adequate rest and recovery.

Aside from following the advice documented above, you should be sure to attend all follow-up appointments with your doctor. These will monitor your recovery and identify any signs of a recurrence.

If you’ve had a hernia repair operation, make sure you follow all the post-surgery instructions about resuming normal activities provided by your doctor.

If you experience any symptoms such as pain, swelling, or a bulge at the surgical site, contact your doctor immediately. Early detection and treatment of a recurrence can help prevent further complications.

Pregnancy can increase the risk of developing a hernia. In addition to our tips above, try to avoid standing or sitting for long periods as this can put pressure on the abdominal muscles.