Hernias and Aging

Lifting Heavy Weights is Bad for a Hernia

A hernia is caused by a tear or some congenital weakness in a muscle most commonly in the abdominal wall. This tear then allows a part of the intestine to bulge out and this is usually most noticeable when standing. Most hernias will fall back into place when someone lies down.
Hernias tend to get bigger with age so seniors may find their hernia has grown larger with age. In some cases aging sagging muscles can lead to a hernia. In other cases a hernia only gets discovered in old age.

Kinds of Hernias

Inguinal hernias

Inguinal hernias are found in the lower abdomen and are more common in men. They account for 94% of all hernias. In men they often lead to a bulging in the scrotum. In women they are not as noticeable and may not even get diagnosed.

Femoral Hernias

Femoral hernias make up 2% of all hernias and are found more often in women. These are found between the pelvis and the thigh often at the crease in the skin at the top of the thigh. They have a high rate of strangulation and many surgeons prefer to treat them before they make problems to avoid the risk of strangulation.

Umbilical Hernias

Umbilical hernias occur at the naval where a bulge of intestine finds a weakened place in the abdominal wall.

Epigastric Hernias

Epigastric hernias are in the upper abdomen and are caused by a lump of fat that bulges through the abdominal wall.

Hiatal or Diaphragmatic Hernias

Hiatal or Diaphragmatic hernias are where a part of the stomach bulges into a weakened part of the diaphragm.

Incisional Hernias

Incisional hernias occur at the site of previous abdominal surgery.

Causes and Risks for Hernias

  • Many people only get a hernia after lifting heavy objects. Sometimes it was a tiny tear or congenital weakness in the abdominal wall that gives way under the stress of lifting something too heavy.
  • Obesity adds strain on the abdominal muscles and this can lead to a hernia.
  • Chronic constipation and straining at the stool can cause a hernia to get bigger.
  • Smoking, which leads to coughing, can cause or aggravate a hernia. Also coughs from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung problems can worsen a hernia.

Treating a Hernia

Many hernias do not have to be treated, but people have to be careful and not lift heavy weights or objects. However, hernias that cause pain, problems or become strangulated can only be treated surgically.

Strangulated Hernias

The main danger from some kinds of hernias is strangulation. This happens when the piece of intestine gets trapped in the hernia, which is called an incarcerated hernia, and the blood supply to the intestines gets cut off. This can come on without any warning and is a life threatening medical emergency. Treatment is only surgical, which must be done within 8-12 hours or the strangulated intestine can get sepsis and gangrene. If the intestine gets gangrene that part of the intestine will also have to be surgically removed. Symptoms of a strangulated hernia are excruciating pain that may be accompanied by nausea. The person may not be able to expel gas or have a bowel movement. Surgery must be done within 8-12 hours in order to save the intestine.

Short-term Rehabilitation and Long-term Skilled Nursing Care

If your loved one needs rehabilitation for any reason or long-term skilled nursing care be sure to let the staff know. Choose a facility which tailors physical exercise specifically for each person according to their abilities and medical condition like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York.


Inform your doctor if you have a hernia. Also, if you notice any unusual bulging in your abdomen see a surgeon. Usually a hernia can be diagnosed manually by a surgeon. Ultrasound can also diagnose hernias. At any rate exercise caution and moderation in moving or lifting heavy objects.

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