Living with a hernia

Living with a hernia

I have the beginnings of a hernia. I’m told that provided I manage it properly it should not get any worse. Is there nothing that can be done to improve matters?

Tony Jones

An inguinal hernia occurs when abdominal contents (including the lining of abdomen and sometimes bowel) protrude through a weakness in the abdominal wall. It can present as a lump or discomfort in the groin. The lump may appear when lifting or standing and disappear when you lie down. If there is doubt, an ultrasound can be performed.

Inguinal hernias occur mainly in older men though I’m not aware that it is any more common in cyclists than non-cyclists. Risk factors include obesity, constipation, chronic cough, and heavy lifting as they increase the pressure in the abdomen.

Irreducible hernias cannot be pushed back in. Strangulation is a medical emergency where the contents of the hernia become twisted or trapped by the narrow opening, cutting off the blood supply and obstructing the bowel.

Inguinal hernias can be repaired surgically, often as a day case, by pushing the hernia back into place and using a mesh to strengthen the weak point in the abdominal wall. A truss may be used when surgery is not possible.

I’ve heard it said that a recumbent bike is helpful as it encourages use of the thigh muscles rather than the abdominal ones, so won’t exacerbate the hernia. Once it has started, I don’t think there are any specific exercises that can improve the hernia. It’s more a case of avoiding things that may exacerbate it such as heavy lifting. Saddle adjustment may help the pain but surgical repair is considered to be the definitive treatment.

Dr Matt Brooks

 

This was first published in the February / March 2014 edition of Cycle magazine.

Health     Q&A     Technical advice
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