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Exercises for Hernia. Dos and Don’ts

By Nishkak +2 more

First, let’s learn what exactly Hernia is:

Hernias are caused when a weakness in the muscle or tissue of the body allows an internal part of the body to push through. Typically, a hernia occurs between the chest and hips. There are few or no symptoms initially. However, you may notice swelling or a lump in your belly (abdomen) or groin. 

Types of Hernia:

3 of the most common types of hernia are:

  1. Inguinal Hernia: This form of hernia is caused when the bladder or bowel pushes through weak regions of the lower abdominal wall.
  2. Hiatal Hernia: Excess stomach tissue can push over the diaphragm, resulting in a hernia in the chest region. It is more common for smokers to experience this condition. A hiatal hernia is also associated with acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease. 
  3. Umbilical Hernia: This occurs when a part of the intestines protrudes through the abdominal muscles in the belly button area. Infants and pregnant women are most commonly affected by this condition, but it can also occur in male adults.

Exercising with Hernia. Safe or not?

Exercise can be safe for some people with hernias. It may be safe to exercise with a hernia, but caution should be taken. To prevent additional stress on your hernia, focus on activities that won’t strain that area. It is not recommended to perform exercises or lift routines that strain or pull the abdominal area when suffering from abdominal hernias. Nevertheless, there are several exercises to avoid. Working out safely begins by knowing which exercises to avoid.

Furthermore, working out with a qualified personal trainer or an accredited physiotherapist is wise. The trainer or physiotherapist can help you with safe exercises. Consult your doctor before exercising when you have been diagnosed with a hernia or recovering after a hernia operation.

Benefits of exercise for Hernia: 

Some evidence is that exercise or yoga can help with or speed up the healing process after Hernia surgery. Exercise and yoga are recommended by physicians and physical therapists for a healthy lifestyle. Understanding the right exercises and the time to begin them from your doctor is important.

  • Core Strengthening: A hernia is often caused by weak core muscles. You can strengthen your abdominal wall by doing certain exercises and yoga poses that activate your abdominal muscles and obliques.
  • Activate smaller muscle fibres: Stretches and movements in yoga and exercises that are more subtle can target fascia, the fibre webbing around your muscles. Your myofascial connective tissue helps keep your organs in place as you increase your mobility.
  • Improve body awareness: Connecting your breath to your movement helps you to become more aware of how you are feeling and where there may be a pain. For people experiencing stress or anxiety who are unbalanced or “stuck in their heads,” yoga is an excellent way to restore balance to their bodies.
  • Faster recovery after surgery: Studies have shown that post-surgery yoga reduces pain, symptoms and the chance of recurrence of hernias.

Exercises to cope with Inguinal Hernia:

1. Pillow Squeeze:

Use the thigh muscles during Pillow Squeeze. Begin by lying flat on the floor and bending your knees. Inhale deeply while holding a pillow between your knees. As you exhale, squeeze the pillow gently with both knees. Make sure to repeat this exercise 20 times daily.

2. Shoulder Bridge:

Keeping your knees in the same position, exhale while sitting with a pillow between them. Lift your waist and rest your arms on the floor to provide support. Try to stay as straight as possible from your shoulders to your knees. Take in as much air as you can. Sit with a pillow between your knees and return to the initial position. Repeat 20 times daily.

3. Stretching the hamstring muscles:

Bend your knees and lie down flat on the floor. Your head and chin should be at the same level. Then, raise one leg up, keeping the other leg bent. Try wrapping a towel around your foot and pulling the lifted leg towards yourself. Try to stretch your hamstring muscles until they feel a bit stretched. Hold that position for at least 30 seconds. Then go back to the starting position. Perform this exercise 10 times a day with each leg.

4. Opening the knee:

Keep your knees bent and inhale as you lie flat on the floor. As you exhale, open one knee sideways. Bring it as close to the floor as possible. Now bring the knee back. Proceed in the same manner with the other knee. Do this five times per day. Maintain a straight body position during the exercise.

5. Roll your hips:

Keeping your feet apart, bend your knees in the same position. Inhale as you hold your arms straight out in front of you. Inhale slowly as you roll over your hips on your right side. Bend both knees sideways. Do the same on the other side. Repeat this exercise ten times a day, then increase to 20.

Exercises that are good for Hiatal Hernia:

  1. Chair Position: The pose helps strengthen the lower body and core. Keep your feet close together. Put your hands over your head while pressing your knees together. You should keep your thighs parallel to the floor by bending the knees as much as possible. Return to the starting position after holding the stretch as long as possible.
  1. Bridge Position: Strengthen the muscles in your stomach with this exercise. With both feet flat on the floor, lie on your back with the knees bent. Keep the shoulders down and lift the lower back off the floor. Remain in this position for as long as possible before returning to your starting position.
  1. Diaphragmatic breathing: It strengthens the diaphragm and can benefit people affected by Hiatal hernias. You can either sit up or lie down. One hand should go on the stomach, the other on the chest. Take a deep breath through your nose, focusing on your stomach as it rises. Focus on lowering the stomach as you breathe out through pursed lips. Repeat this a few times.  

Exercises that are good for umbilical Hernia:

  1. Cycling in the air: Strengthen your lower abdominal muscles by cycling your legs in the air. Lay on a slant board. You can remove excess pressure from your head and feet while exercising with slant boards. You can do bicycle leg exercises on your slant board by lifting your legs towards your chest. Stabilise yourself by holding your sides while pedalling your legs. Perform these exercises in 10 to 15-minute sessions three times every week.
  1. Stretching: It is vital to maintain a flexible abdomen to reduce the risk of hernias. Keep your knees bent straight while you lay flat on the floor. Keeping your back firmly on the ground, bend your legs on each side and try to touch the surface. Keep the posture in place for 5-10 seconds, then return to your starting position. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side. You should perform this stretch daily. Stretching your abdominal muscles increase their flexibility, making them less likely to weaken under pressure.
  1. Correct Your Breathing: Any exercise should be performed with correct breathing. Take deep breaths from your abdomen rather than your chest. It helps release abdominal pressure by lifting the diaphragm. Your back should be on the ground. One hand should be placed on your chest and another on your belly. Let air enter your abdomen as you breathe through your nose. You should raise your lower hand instead of the hand on your chest as you breathe in.

Exercises after your Hernia surgery

To be done only after discussing with the surgeon)

1. Deep Breathing:

In the aftermath of surgery, it is normal to feel some pain. In particular, after abdominal surgery, deep breathing can be quite painful, which makes people breathe very shallowly. Sometimes, the inability to expand the lungs properly can lead to infections in the bottom of the lungs. You should therefore take a few conscious deep breaths throughout the day. You should also use controlled coughing to rid yourself of phlegm or sputum. To aid in coughing and clearing the lungs properly, you can hold a pillow or towel near the surgical wound to provide some support.

  1. Walking: Walking around after hernia surgery is a highly recommended exercise to do to enhance the speed of your recovery. By doing so, you encourage your circulation to run smoothly and encourage your gut to keep working. It is important for patients to walk a little after surgery and increase the distance after recovery. Walking helps speed up recovery and prevents infection and blood clots.
  1. Leg exercises: Leg exercises provide you with the strength to keep your legs mobile and prevent blood clots by keeping the circulation moving. Repeat each exercise several times to start with and increase repetitions as you get stronger.
    Ankle flex: Stretch and flex your ankles for 10 repetitions, alternately
    Knee pushes: While lying on your back, hold for a few seconds and relax your muscle as you push your thigh against the edge of the bed.
    Leg Straighten: Straighten your legs by bending the knees with your feet flat on the ground while sitting on the edge of the bed. Using one leg at a time, straighten it out for a few seconds, then bend it back to 90 degrees
  1. Abdominal exercises: Your core muscles will be strengthened, thus reducing the risk of hernias:
  • Button pulls: Lay on your back, bend your knees and put your hands on your hips. Pull your belly button inside while you breathe in and then slowly breathe out. Repeat this a few times.
  • Core twists: Lie on your back with your knees bent and hold your hands on either side of your body to ensure that your spine is stable. Leaving your feet on the bed, bend your knees as far as you can on one side, then return to your starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Pelvic tilts: Place your hands under the lower back with your knees bent (feet on the surface). Your spine needs to be flattened on your hands and your bottom needs to be tilted forward. After a few seconds, return to the starting position.

Also Read: Castor Oil in Belly Button: The Science and Benefits Explained

Exercises to avoid after Hernia surgery:

Certain exercises and activities should be avoided after your hernia surgery or if you have a hernia: 

  • Exercise that puts you in a lot of pain, such as weightlifting, should be avoided.
  • Avoid too much abdominal stretching. Exercising the abdominal muscles in ways that lengthen them, like doing the upward dog pose in yoga, puts excess pressure on the muscles.
  • Avoid core exercises such as planks, crunches, sit-ups and Pilates.
  • Avoid physical activities with high impact and contact.

Key Takeaways:

When exercising with a hernia, keep certain tips in mind to make sure you remain safe. One of the most important steps is to avoid the strenuous exercises listed above. As part of your exercise routine, make sure that you include aerobic exercises, glute bridges and postural strengthening exercises.

Be sure not to overdo it. You should be gentle with yourself until your hernia has been repaired. 

If you do it correctly, exercise will help you in managing your hernia better and prepare you for surgery if necessary. After surgery, it is definitely an important part of your prevention plan

You always run the risk of worsening hernias when you begin exercising. Hence, patients must seek treatment for a hernia before participating in intense exercise. Every person is different therefore, it is mandatory to discuss with your doctor the right time to begin exercises and the type of exercise one should engage in.


Is it OK to exercise with a hernia?

It is safe to exercise with a hernia, however, there may be risks to making your hernia worse, if done correctly, exercise can help you cope with your hernia better. Ensure to be careful and not overdo your exercises or perform any strenuous exercises. Consult your doctor before doing any exercise.

Does a hernia get worse with exercise?

The benefits of exercise may help you manage many chronic health conditions and alleviate the symptoms of a hernia. However, you must be careful as some exercises can cause strain on your affected area and may worsen your hernia.

What activities should be avoided with a hernia?

Core exercises such as crunches, planks, sit-ups and some pilates, in other words, exercises that are more advanced should be avoided. Performing heavy lifting exercises, including deadlifts and squats, at a high intensity, can result in your hernia getting worse. In addition, avoid sports with high impact or contact too. Avoid bending down and lifting anything heavy at home.

Is walking good for Hernia?

Yes, walking is a highly recommended exercise for a person suffering from Hernia. You can go for short walks unless advised otherwise by your doctor.

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.


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