Five ways to reduce your risk of a hernia

Hernias happen when an internal part of your body (eg part of your intestines) pushes through a weak point in the muscle or tissue that keeps it in place. They typically occur in the area between your chest and hips, but they can also happen in your groin or upper thigh area. You therefore might notice a swelling or lump in your abdomen or groin.

In most cases, hernias aren’t life-threatening, but they don’t go away on their own. You might be able to push the lump back in, or it might disappear when you lie down. However, hernia surgery is usually needed to resolve your hernia and avoid potentially dangerous complications. 

There are several different types of hernia, including inguinal, umbilical, hiatus and femoral; inguinal hernias are the most common. Symptoms vary between these hernias, as well as with their severity. 

There are several ways you can reduce your risk of developing a hernia. These aim to decrease the strain that you put on your body. Here are five approaches to consider:

1. Avoid heavy lifting

Lifting things that are too heavy can affect your physical health in a number of ways. As well as the risk to your back and muscles, regularly lifting heavy loads can increase your risk of a hernia.

This is because when you strain your body to lift something heavy, you increase the chances of an organ pushing through a weak point. This is more likely if your muscles are weakened in certain areas.

It’s therefore a good idea to only carry things that you can manage without strain or pain, and to get help with heavier items. It’s also important to make sure that you lift correctly to reduce the strain on your abdomen. You can do this by keeping your back straight, bending your knees and using your leg muscles to bear the load.

2. Prepare for other surgeries

While many abdominal surgeries are unavoidable and critical for your health, they may increase your risk of developing a hernia. This is because cuts through your muscles can create weak points even after your muscles have healed.

You should never avoid surgery purely to reduce your hernia risk, but it’s important to prepare properly for every surgery. This could mean losing excess weight, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, exercising to build muscle strength and stopping smoking.

Ensuring you’re as healthy as possible before surgery can reduce your chances of developing a hernia later in life.

3. Eat high-fibre foods

Avoiding unnecessary strain on your body is important for reducing your risk of a hernia. Repeatedly straining to go to the toilet can increase your risk of a hernia, so it’s a good idea to do what you can to prevent constipation.

Eating a diet rich in fibre can help with this, making it easier to pass stools and reducing your need to strain. High-fibre foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, oats, lentils, beans and chickpeas.

If you’re having ongoing issues with constipation, talk to your GP as this could be a sign of a serious underlying health problem.

4. Treat other health problems

Other health problems that increase strain on your body can also increase your risk of developing a hernia. These include persistent coughs and sneezing, problems urinating and excessive weight gain.

It’s important to speak to your GP if you’re experiencing any of these health problems on an ongoing basis. As well as increasing your risk of a hernia, they could also be a sign of a serious underlying health issue, so make sure that you seek medical advice early and never ignore these symptoms.

5. Stay healthy and active

Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is another important way to reduce your risk of developing a hernia. As hernias usually occur in the abdomen or groin, exercises to maintain or improve muscle strength in these areas will help reduce your risk, as well as improve your overall health.

This doesn’t mean that you need to go to the gym regularly or take part in very strenuous exercise. Gentle exercises at home practised frequently, can improve your muscle strength. Try exercises aimed at your ability level that focus on building core strength.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.