Aspirus Health surgeon provides hernia prevention tips

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – A surgeon with Aspirus Health recently provided tips to avoid a hernia.

“If you’ve ever had a hernia, you know you don’t ever want one again,” Aspirus stated. “Fortunately, only a small percentage of people who have had a hernia once will have a recurrence, reports the American College of Surgeons (ACS).”

Aspirus said 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.

“Years of pressure or exertion can wear the tissue down and make your body more susceptible to developing a hernia,” said Rachel Laszko, MD, Aspirus General Surgeon. “Hernias not are preventable. Taking care of your body and being aware of your daily movements can go a long way in reducing your risk.”

Laszko. Photo courtesy of Aspirus.

Some activities can put increased strain on your abdominal wall and may lead to a hernia. According to the ACS, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Library of Medicine (NLM) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), here are the risk factors and ways to reduce them:

  • Lifting heavy objects – Lift properly by getting close to the object you intend to lift, bend at your knees (not waist) and use your leg muscles to lift.
  • Lack of muscle strength – Exercise regularly to strengthen your abdominal muscles.
  • Chronic constipation – Eat high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, bran, and raw fruits and veggies to help minimize constipation.
  • Significant weight gain or obesity – Being overweight puts extra pressure on your abdomen, increasing your risk of developing a hernia.
  • Sitting or standing for long periods – Take breaks and stretch regularly to avoid putting too much pressure on your abdomen.
  • Chronic coughing or sneezing – Talk to your provider if either persists.
  • Smoking – Nicotine weakens the abdominal wall and increases the risk of developing a hernia. Quit smoking as quickly as possible.
  • Pregnancy – As the belly grows, the pressure on the abdominal wall increases. Watch out for a soft lump around the belly button or groin area.

Aspirus said most people will need surgery to repair a hernia. The type of procedure will be determined by a surgeon and depend on factors such as the size of the hernia, the patient’s age, health and medical history.

In open hernia repair, Aspirus explained, an incision is made near the site and the hernia is repaired with mesh or by suturing the muscle closed.

In laparoscopic hernia repair, mesh or sutures are inserted through instruments placed into small incisions in the abdomen.

“Watchful waiting, or safely delaying surgery, may be an option for people who are not uncomfortable,” Aspirus stated. “If you feel pain or discomfort in your abdomen, take it seriously and see your health care provider. They will be able to determine the best treatment option for you.”

“Don’t wait to see your health care provider about a hernia and assume it will be okay,” Laszko said. “It’s such a simple surgery to get it fixed, and since the potential outcomes if you don’t have it fixed are so dangerous, it’s really worth talking to your provider and seeing if you’re a good candidate for surgery.”

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