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Tips for preventing hernias

Two men lifting a box

In most cases, there's nothing you can do to prevent a hernia. But there are some strategies that can help you minimize your risk.

If you've ever had a hernia, you know you don't ever want one again.

Fortunately, only a small percentage of people who have had a hernia once will have a recurrence, reports the American College of Surgeons.

What is a hernia?

Hernias occur when an organ such as your intestine or other tissue pushes through a weak area in the muscles that surround it. This can create a visible, often painful, bulge in your skin.

The weak area of the muscles may have been caused by age or injury, or you may have even been born with it.

Some activities can put increased strain on your abdominal wall and put you at an increased risk for hernia. These include:

  • Lifting heavy objects.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Chronic constipation.
  • Significant weight gain or obesity.
  • Chronic coughing.

Preventing a hernia

According to the National Institutes of Health and other experts, most hernias cannot be prevented. But there are ways to reduce your risk:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, bran, and raw fruits and veggies, to help minimize constipation.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have chronic coughing or sneezing.
  • If you smoke, quit.  

It's also a good idea to use care when lifting heavy objects. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following tips: Get close to the object you intend to lift, bend at your knees (not waist) and use your leg muscles to lift.

Reviewed 3/24/2023

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