Hernia Pain: Symptoms and Treatment


Last updated Feb. 22, 2018


A hernia pain occurs when a sac containing part of an organ or a fatty tissue bulges out of the area they are normally contained.

While there are different types of a hernia, they all result from the protrusion of organs or fatty tissue through weakened areas in the abdomen, upper thigh, groin, or other areas within the abdominal region.

Though most hernias are not immediately life-threatening, they do not go away on their own and will have to be properly treated to avoid complications.

Also, while most hernia is painful, some (the asymptomatic types), produce no symptoms.

Hernia pains usually occur during certain activities like walking, running, and lifting. It is also possible to notice symptoms when someone is resting.

When organs bulge out to form painful hernia sacs, the opening it pushed out from may be so little and exert enough pressure that will lead to the constriction of the blood vessels in the protruding area, cutting off blood supply to the area.

This means that that part of the organ eventually becomes strangulated. Some hernia cases do not easily get to this, but once it happens, the case becomes a medical and surgical emergency as the affected tissue needs oxygen to remain alive, and oxygen is only supplied through blood.


Common Types of a Hernia

We have different hernia types and it is essential that we look at the common ones.


Inguinal Hernia

These are the most common types of hernias. According to the British Hernia Center (BHC), inguinal hernias constitute about 70% of all cases of reported hernias.

They occur in the lower abdominal wall when a portion of the intestine pushes through a weak spot or a tear in the inguinal canal.

The inguinal canal, by the way, is a sensitive area in the groin. In men, it is the area where the spermatic cord passes from the abdomen to the scrotum.

In women, it contains a ligament that helps hold the uterus in place. Though some women experience inguinal hernias, they are most common in men.


Hiatal Hernia

This type of hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes into the chest region through the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the sheet of muscle that separates the contents of the chest from those of the abdomen.

Hiatal hernia is most common among adults who are over 50 years due to muscle weakness. When it occurs, it almost certainly results in gastroesophageal reflux, the gastrointestinal condition that causes heartburn.


An Umbilical Hernia

This is a rare type of a hernia that occurs in babies who are normally 6 months or less. It happens when their intestine bulge through their tender abdominal wall near their bellybutton.

It is mainly noticeable when the child is crying. This type of a hernia normally goes away without treatment before the child gets to 12 months as the muscles become stronger.

If, however, umbilical hernia does not go away after 12 months, a surgery may be necessary to correct it.


Incisional Hernia

This happens to people who have had abdominal surgeries. It results from a situation where a portion of the intestine pushes through the point of incision or through weakened tissues around it.

This type of a hernia normally demands immediate medical attention.

There are some other specific types of a hernia such as a femoral hernia, epigastric hernia, and sports hernia.


Symptoms of Hernia

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As has been mentioned earlier, there are certain hernia types that do not present any form of symptoms. For the others, symptoms vary due to the type of hernia.

The most common symptom - which is often obvious, is the bulge or lump in the affected area. This lump can be felt by touching the area while you are standing, bending down, or while coughing, sneezing, cycling, swimming, or lifting weights.

In the case of an umbilical hernia that affects children, the bulge can normally be noticed when the baby is crying.

In the case of an inguinal hernia, the bulge may be accompanied by a sharp pain or burning sensation in the groin as a result of the inflammation of the inguinal nerve.

A sharp or tearing pain can be felt if a hernia results from lifting a heavy weight. In some cases of an inguinal hernia, there may not be any major sign except for the feeling of fullness in the groin region.

For hiatal hernia, symptoms may not be really pronounced initially.

As it becomes more complicated, gastroesophageal reflux develops and the patient will start having acid reflux, which is commonly called heartburn.

Chest pain and difficulty swallowing can also be indicative of hiatal hernia.

For sports hernia that involves strain or tear of tissues in the lower abdomen, a sharp pain in the groin or inguinal areas is an obvious sign. An enlarged or swollen scrotum is a visible sign of hernia in men.

In the case of an asymptomatic hernia, you may never know you have the condition until it shows up during a routine check-up or medical examination for an unrelated problem.


Diagnosis of Hernia

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Since hernia normally occur as a result of protrusion, physical examination is always enough to diagnose the condition.

Doctors will feel around the area while you assume different positions or perform certain activities. Barium X-ray and endoscopy can also be used for hernia diagnosis.

An ultrasound scan can also be used for diagnosis, especially in cases of an umbilical hernia.


Treatment of Hernia

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There are different treatment options that can be used in the management of hernia pain. Depending on the type of hernia or severity of the condition, doctors may recommend immediate medical intervention or simply monitor your condition for complications. The common treatment options are as follows.


1. Lifestyle Changes

If you are diagnosed with certain types of hernia, a little modification on lifestyle choices will help to keep the condition at bay.

A hiatal hernia, for instance, can be managed by dietary changes. Keeping your body weight in a healthy range and avoiding heavy meals will help to treat the symptoms, but it will not make the hernia go away.

Exercise can also be used to treat the symptoms of hernia, but it is essential that you confirm from a doctor the way to go about it as a wrong exercise may aggravate the condition.

Exercises that are done properly help hernia condition by strengthening the muscles around the affected area.


2. Medications

There are certain medications that are very useful in addressing some symptoms of hernia.

In the case of hiatal hernia that does not present major symptom other than gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), treatment will focus on reducing acid production in the stomach, as well as preventing acids and the contents of the stomach from entering into the esophagus.

There are a number of over-the-counter and prescriptive medications that can be used towards this end. Examples are antacid, H-2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors.


3. Surgery

This is the realistic method of correcting hernia. They are necessary in some cases and can result in the end of the hernia condition instead of simply treating the symptoms.

When surgeons operate, they normally push back the organs into their position and repair the hole or weakened tissue with surgical mesh.

Open surgeries are common, but hernia can be repaired by laparoscopic surgery, through the use of tiny camera and miniaturized surgical equipment inserted through tiny incisions.

The nature of the hernia will determine the type of surgery that the doctor will use to treat it.

Each of the methods has their advantages and disadvantages and the doctor/surgeon will determine what is best for the condition.

Hernia is a medical condition that should be treated with the same level of seriousness as any other health condition.

Symptoms and treatment options vary, and consulting your health provider is the best way to respond to the condition.



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