Ahhh hernias! The staple jokes in the Carry On films, involving a truss and a workshy labourer! My, how we laugh….till we get one ourselves!

To save the sensibility of readers, NO illustration accompanies this article!

So what is a hernia?

It is a weakness in the abdominal wall, where the contents of the abdomen push out and create a lump. This may be after surgery, or umbilical, but often are inguinal.
Inguinal hernias are now thought to be a structural weakness present from before birth, but tend to manifest in middle age, particularly in active men who are overweight and lift weights. 27% of men get a hernia!
After the initial tear they are not very painful, though can be unsettling and uncomfortable if not rested frequently. There is a small chance of strangulation of the gut, which requires a trip to A&E for surgery.
However, long before the hernias are diagnosed, some people can get many vague disabling symptoms like arthritis, which are only resolved with surgery. These may develop over a number of years, and may severely affect the patient’s quality of life. Martin was treated by personal trainers, osteopaths, a physiotherapist and a chiropractor for muscle dysfunction for years with no success. He felt their exasperation and internalised a lot of bad feelings as a result!

Surgery is the only treatment

Although some people claim to keep hernias in check with exercise, there is no evidence that this is generally effective. Surgery is the only way to reliably cure a hernia. However, the classic “open” surgery carries a 20% risk of nerve damage, which can be severe. If people have multiple hernias, then there can be significant scarring. That is why laparoscopic “keyhole” surgery is recommended. This too, carries risks, which is why the NHS has no policy of recommending surgery unless hernias are severe.
Ultimately, the choice of surgery is up to the patient. It is difficult, however, to get reliable statistics on risk – the success rate varies tremendously with surgeon and with hospital but these statistics are not published. It is advised to meet the surgeon beforehand and ask them directly.

So why this article on a website about Massage Therapy?

Martin saw 4 surgeons before choosing an operation, which was a total success. He is happy to share his experience if readers contact him directly. His pain that was variously diagnosed as muscle dysfunction, and then hip arthritis, has disappeared and he is progressing well and able to exercise again.

So if you have a chronic condition, don’t give up hope just because your therapist does! Keep striving. The answer may lie in physical therapy, but not necessarily! A good therapist will know the limits to their expertise, and will have reasonable doubt, and will always refer on if they are not confident they can help!