A hernia is a defect in the musculature of the abdomen, a weakness or an actual opening, that can lead to a protrusion of the underlying abdominal wall. Severe cases can be seen and felt on the lower abdomen. These cases require immediate attention as they cause disruption of blood flow, which could lead to tissue death in the affected area. Even minor hernias cause pain in the abdomen when the muscle group is activated. Bending and lifting are common precipitators, but even coughing can cause acute pain. Surgical intervention is required and moderating physical activity during recovery is a must.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
One activity your doctor will encourage you to not avoid is walking. Patients spend only a couple hours in recovery following most hernia surgeries. You will be discharged as soon as you are awake and able to walk. While the rest of your first day will likely be spent resting, it is important to start walking on the next day after surgery, even briskly, but avoid walking up stairs or hills for the first several days.
Avoid running for at least the first three days to a week, then begin with light jogging. Stick to the track and avoid up-and-down cross-country terrain that requires greater core muscle involvement.
It is important to keep the suture site clean and dry, but it should remain dressed for at least the first two days. Avoid showering during this period. On the third day, you can remove the dressing and take a shower. Pat the suture site dry afterward and avoid excessive rubbing with the towel. Get someone to support you if you need to step into and out of a bathtub. It’s better if you use a stand-up shower stall if it's available.
Avoid exercise that stretches or pulls abdominal muscles for at least two weeks, then begin with light resistance training. You can resume core strength training after about four weeks. Work-related activities like heavy lifting should be considered core strength training and avoided for a similar period. No sex for two to three weeks, and if you’ve had incisional hernia repair, it is best to delay sex until the fourth week 2.
Your participation in non-contact sports like baseball, tennis and basketball can resume in six to eight weeks, but given the nature of sports and the possibility of accidental contact, it is always best to inform your doctor of your intentions. Contact sports like football or hockey should be avoided for at least 12 weeks. Laparoscopic repair leads to shorter recovery times, but check with your doctor before you resume unlimited activity.
- surgery image by Andrey Rakhmatullin from Fotolia.com