Exercises for Preventing and Recovering From Inguinal Hernia

Inguinal hernia happens when tissue from your intestine or the membrane that lines your abdominal cavity pokes through a weak area in your abdominal muscles near your groin. 

An inguinal hernia on its own isn't always dangerous, though it can cause pain when you cough, bend over, or lift something heavy. However, if the hernia doesn't get better on its own, it can lead to life-threatening complications.

Certain exercises that work to strengthen your abdominal muscles can reduce your risk of getting inguinal hernia. Other exercises can help you recover after hernia surgery

Exercises to Help Prevent and Recover From Inguinal Hernia

Button Pulls

This exercise works the muscles in your abdominal core. Strengthening this group of muscles can help prevent a hernia from coming back. You will want to do this exercise on a comfortable surface, such as your bed. 

Step 1: Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Your feet should be planted on the surface, and your hands should be on your hips. 

Step 2: Take a deep breath in through your nose. As you breathe out, pull your belly button in toward your back. Hold this position for several seconds. 

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Step 3: Relax and breathe normally — then repeat. 

Seated Bicep Curls

Strengthening your limbs can make a big difference in post-operative recovery from inguinal hernia surgery. For this exercise, you will need light weights. If you don't have dumbbells around, you can use two cans of food from your pantry.

Step 1: Sit down so that your back is resting against something, and your feet are firmly placed on the ground. Grab two lightweight dumbbells (or two items of similar weight) with your palms facing forward, and let your arms hang to the side. Lower your shoulders, and push your shoulders back. 

Step 2: Take a deep breath. While you breathe out, bend each elbow at the same time and bring the weights toward your chest. Be sure to keep your back straight and shoulders down, and don't overextend your wrists. 

Step 3: Inhale and gently bring the weights back down to your starting position. 

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Pawanmuktasana

Pawanmuktasana is a type of yogic exercise that helps prevent inguinal hernias by:

  • Strengthening your abdominal muscles
  • Compressing your inguinal canal (groin) 
  • Reducing the pressure inside your abdomen

This exercise can also help release gas from your digestive tract. You will need a yoga mat or some sort of cushioning to put on the floor.

Step 1: Lie in the supine position, which means that your back is against the mat, your feet are together, and your hands are resting at either side of your body. Relax your body. 

Step 2: While exhaling, bend your right leg and bring it toward your abdomen. Grab your knee or shin with both hands and pull it up to your chest. 

Step 3: Wrap your forearms around your leg just below the knee, and hold each elbow with the fingers of the opposite hand. Keep your leg pressed against your chest. Keep your left leg as straight as possible, and make sure your head and neck are on the floor. 

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Step 4: Hold this pose for 6 seconds.

Step 5: Gently release the hold and slowly return to the starting position.

Step 6: Repeat the above steps with the left leg. 

Yoga poses may be unfamiliar for you, but with practice, they can be a great opportunity to incorporate gentle stretches that target specific muscle groups into your routine.

Safety Considerations

Because strenuous physical activity and heavy lifting can cause inguinal hernia, you should go about these exercises carefully. They may cause some discomfort, but they are not meant to inflict any pain. 

Additionally, older individuals should go about these exercises very gently, as your muscles can weaken or deteriorate due to aging, and inguinal hernias typically only occur in weak abdominal muscles.

If you feel more pain or discomfort than seems appropriate for your level of exercise and activity, talk to your doctor about other ways to manage your inguinal hernia or ways to tweak these or other exercises so they work for you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 14, 2020

Sources

Sources: 

Ace Fitness: "Seated Biceps Curl."

Highgate Private Hospital: "Great Exercises to Help Recover from Hernia Surgery."

International Journal of Yoga: Effect of yoga therapy in reversible inguinal hernia: A quasi experimental study."

Mayo Clinic: "Inguinal hernia."

The Yoga Institute: "Yogendra Pawanmuktasana – Cultural Yoga Asanas for Abdomen Compression."

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