At a point near the “hip bone” there is a naturally occurring, small, slit-like opening in the abdominal wall. This is present in everyone. In women, the round ligament (which helps secure the uterus) passes through the slit and fixes on the bony pelvic structures. In men the opening allows the spermatic cord (composed of arteries, veins and the vas deferens) to have access to the testicles in the scrotum. If this opening enlarges, it is called an inguinal hernia. Initially, fat will be able to pass through the abdominal wall. Eventually, the intestine or other abdominal/pelvic organs may traverse the opening. These herniated materials may put pressure on the surrounding tissues causing pain. They may also compress neighboring sensory nerves also resulting in pain or numbness.
Without treatment, inguinal hernias can pose many health concerns. That’s why it is important to keep in mind the risk factors that make inguinal hernias more likely to occur, ways of prevention and reduced risk, and what treatment options are available for someone with an inguinal hernia.
Common Risk Factors of Inguinal Hernia
According to Mayo Clinic, these are the most common possible risk factors:
- Being male.
- Being older.
- Family history.
- Chronic cough, such as from smoking.
- Chronic constipation.
- Premature birth and low birth weight.
- Previous inguinal hernia or hernia repair.
How You Can Reduce the Risk of Developing an Inguinal Hernia?
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Fresh fruits and veggies contain antioxidants, which can help with swelling and inflammation in the body. The antioxidant properties in fresh fruits and veggies also fight illnesses and help heal the body from the inside. Fresh fruits and veggies also retain water, helping you keep hydrated.
Be sure to get enough soluble fiber in your diet as well. Soluble Fiber helps the body retain water in your stool, preventing constipation. A 2016 study on the relationship between constipation and inguinal hernias found that there is a significant chance of developing an inguinal hernia from a bowel blockage. Constipation can be relieved with soluble fiber,
Foods high in soluble fiber that you can easily include in your diet are:
- Black or kidney beans
- Sweet potatoes
It’s important to incorporate core strengthening exercises into your daily routine to help reduce your risk of developing an inguinal hernia. Strengthening your abdominal muscles greatly reduces the possibility of part of your intestine breaking through the muscle wall. Plus, not only will the exercises strengthen your core, but it will also help strengthen your pelvic and groin muscles as well. Some of the best core strengthening exercises include:
- Side plank
- Glute bridge
- Lateral lunges
Staying hydrated allows your body to carry out all normal, essential functions with less strain and more ease. Not only does drinking plenty of water prevent constipation by helping move particles through your intestines, but it also promotes healthy recovery for muscles.
Lift the Right Way
Lifting heavy items can create significant intra-abdominal pressure. Knowing how to lift the correct way will greatly reduce your risk of developing an inguinal hernia. The first step is knowing your weight limits. If something feels too heavy or hurts to lift, don’t lift it. Get help or use a dolly. To lift items correctly, you want to bend your knees, tighten your core, keep your spine neutral, and lift primary with your legs. Be sure to lift slowly with control to avoid injury or the potential of developing an inguinal hernia.
Treating an Inguinal Hernia
As you now know, an inguinal hernia can occur when there is a weakened area of the abdominal wall. If you have weakened abdominal muscles, part of your intestines can break through the muscle wall. The protrusion can be extremely painful and you may notice a bulge in your stomach area. Without treatment, inguinal hernias can cause many health concerns. The first step in treating your inguinal hernia is to book a virtual consultation with Dr. Iraci, MD, FACS. During your consultation, Dr. Iraci will discuss symptoms you are experiencing, groin or pelvic conditions, and treatment options available.