I Got a Hernia

About 3 weeks ago, I felt off, but I didn’t know why. I suspected I may have gotten a hernia, but I had no knowledge of the topic, so I did some online research and visual inspection. I decided I didn’t have a hernia. Then a few days later, I felt it again only more pronounced. This time I could see the hernia. It is an inguinal hernia on the right side.

I don’t know for certain what triggered it or even when it first happened. I wasn’t at the gym. I was making coffee in the morning when I had that first sensation.

I’ve since watched numerous hours of online videos on the topic and had long chats with Chat GPT. Here is what I learned and what I suspect happened. Let me know in the comments if I made any errors.

  1. 25% of all men will get a hernia at some point in their life. 3% for women.
  2. It impacts both the heavy and out-of-shape and the athletic.
  3. It is believed that there is a genetic component. My father has passed away, but I recall him talking about hernias when I was a little kid. I think he may have had hernia surgery either in high school or in his late 20s or early 30s.
  4. Taller men, especially those that had a growth spurt in puberty, such as myself, are more susceptible to hernias.
  5. Although there may be an exercise or movement that “triggers” the hernia, it can be the result of many exercises over many years that cause the injury.
  6. Hernias don’t heal on their own, however, some men are able to push the protrusion back inside and go on fine without surgery. Jeff Cavaliere from Athlean-X has had 2 hernias. He got surgery for his first one and not his second. The second one happened 8 or 10 years ago.
  7. There are 2 main types of surgery: open and laparoscopic.

Many lifters get their hernias from lifting heavy. I don’t lift heavy. I stopped doing “bro lifts” years ago. And I haven’t done a supported 1-arm row in several years. So what do I think happened?

After some long chats and detective work with Chat GPT, I discovered there are certain yoga poses that stretch the abdominals. When you then add a twist to that movement you increase the risk of hernia. Although a few poses are candidates, I think the upward dog with a twist is probably what triggered my hernia.

Upward Facing Dog photo by Oksana Taran

I consume a lot of fitness info and yet I went two years of doing yoga every single morning without knowing anything about this risk. My guess is 99% of yoga content is made for and consumed by women, who do not have the same hernia risk profile as a taller man would.

When I shared this information with a surgeon that I had consulted with, even though she was unaware of these yoga pose risks, it made sense to her. Maybe this post might be a warning to other men. Be careful before holding poses with your abs stretched and twisted.

Hernia Recipe

Why do I think I got a hernia?

  1. male
  2. tall – with a puberty growth spurt
  3. genetics (Dad’s side)
  4. repeatedly twisting into long-hold yoga poses with stretched abs.
  5. being active

Now What?

I am not in pain. I do feel discomfort. Some days are worse than others. Although I was instructed on how to push the hernia back inside, so far, it is not working well for me. It usually pops right back out. 🥴

I am in the “watchful waiting” period to see if I can carry on a normal life with the hernia. Most men do not get surgery for their hernias and only a fraction get the surgery in the first year.

My movement is absolutely restricted. I’ve been doing grandma-style machine workouts at my gym – minus the fast negative. 😉 Even my morning stretching has been restricted. This can’t continue.

The surgeon I spoke to does open hernias, but there are others in the clinic that do laparoscopic. She explained to me that because my body fat percentage was low, I would do great with either option. On the Athlean-X YouTube channel, Jeff made a misrepresentation (which may have been true at one time) that open hernia surgeries do not use the mesh container used in laparoscopic surgeries and are only held together with a stitch that could come undone. The mesh is used for both open and laparoscopic.

I’m leaning toward scheduling surgery in September. My lease ends in mid-November. I want to be fully recovered and able to move at that time. Otherwise, I might be forced to renew at a higher rent. Moving sucks. Moving while in pain would suck even more.

If you have any wisdom on this topic, drop a comment.

UPDATE: I had the surgery on September 20th.

11 Comments

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  1. @MAS Hope you feel better. I think the takeaway is that we have to be humble regarding our health as we get older. We think we’re humble, but we also kind of think our generation’s advanced awareness of nutrition, exercise and fitness will spare us the health problems our parents and grandparents had. Sadly, that appears not to be the case. For example, it was a big eye opener for me when Tony Horton (super fit P90X guy) came down with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and was out of commision for a year. He’s better now but never regained all the muscle mass he lost. Good luck!

  2. Had non-open surgery. Felt weird at the inside of the hip at the bottom position of back squats for a while. Got things checked, it was porous, and then a mesh was installed.

    Loss of feeling on the skin in that area isn’t that bad, but was weird for a time.

    The mesh is made to hold. I’m way less flexible there, even though I massaged and late gently (to help the tissue heal with fewer scar tissue), later strengthened (and hoped to mobilize) the area in all kinds of direction with the help of my trainer buddy and a dozen or so light exercises in total.

    Years later, I can squat down just fine. I avoid heavy loads, like you do. But the body doesn’t allow this area to be stretched the way the opposide side does. Imbalances can accumulate over time. I have no clue if this (tighter flexor area) eventually made a spinal disc protrusion more likely, or if I’ve just been stupid. Either way, the static properties of the right hip are different and I need to be mindful of that.

    Being mindful would be the pro tip/wisdom 🙂

  3. I had hernias on both sides and got laparoscopic on both. It worked out fine. I haven’t noticed any performance degradations but I don’t stretch/yogi much anyway.

  4. @Jim – Thanks. I did not know about Tony Horton.

    @Christian – When I consulted with the surgeon, she handed me the mesh and told me how the newer mesh is stronger and more flexible than what they used to use. I didn’t think about that until I read your comment.

    @Darren – Did you get both sides done at the same time? Did each hernia happen in a close time frame?

  5. Interesting mildly relevant old article from Seth Roberts (original Quantified Self guy) about deciding whether to get hernia surgery.
    https://sethroberts.net/2011/11/16/dr-eileen-consorti-and-patient-power/

  6. @Jim – Thanks for sharing that story. It is the slip-side of my experience so far – which is good. I have symptoms but my surgeon said “watch and wait” with zero pressure to schedule a surgery.

  7. I got my hernia in 2018. I was doing lots of heavy lifting and even hanging upside down with gravity boots at the time. Right side started bulging out – inguineal.

    Father had a hernia too, so it seems I’m genetically predisposed. Hernia was on the right, but the doc said the muscle wall on the left was also weak and may produce a hernia in the future.

    Doctor recommended open surgery and the placement of a mesh. I spent 2 nights in the hospital.

    The anesthesia routine was a hoot. “Count backwards from 100.” Didn’t get past 97. They also used the all-important checklist procedure, making me recite name, what the surgery was for, etc. A very professional and reassuring routine.

    The day after the surgery I started walking the corridor of my room’s floor like an old man, hugging the wall.

    Doctor recommended no exercise with weights for 3 weeks. After that I slowly built up my weight training routine again.

    Interesting side note: I live in Tokyo and have Japanese health insurance. For surgery, a 2 night hospital stay in a private (!) room, meals and all incidentals, total out of pocket was about $800.

  8. @garymar That procedure sounds really nice indeed!

    I all but suppressed memories of the recovery period and didn’t share that part. Wasn’t in the hospital, so I was brought home after the procedure. Next day, they said I should come by for a routine visit. No free taxi this time, so I went by tram and figured the 300m walk wouldn’t be a big deal.

    That walk was a trial. Dear heavens!

    In total, I couldn’t walk upright for more than a week. So my body really didn’t like something about the whole ordeal.

    An farmer we know had hernia surgery about a year ago and was working happily the day after. I hated him for that 🙂

    This all made me question if the aforementioned porousness was really that much of a deal, or if I could’ve gotten by without surgery and just not doing heavy lifting and weird movements just fine. (Didn’t know “iatrogenic” before Taleb, but that comes to mind.)

    So I rate the experience a 3/10 cannot recommend if nothing’s plopping out. I felt better doing something, but maybe it wasn’t necessary? I have no clue what really was going on inside and if things would’ve gotten worse without the mesh. But the recovery was suspiciously meh.

  9. @All – I had the hernia surgery 2 days ago. Recovering now.

  10. I’ve had two hernia repairs: open (in my early 20s) and laparoscopic (mid 40s). The recovery after the first repair was awkward (I don’t recommend sneezing…) but I don’t recall any other issues until my second hernia. I don’t know much about the mesh but I’ve been careful with exercises that involve lifting or sustained abdominal pressure (e.g. isometric holds) – generally this entails not being stupid and remembering to not hold my breath. While I sometimes feel a sensation in the second hernia area after exercise it has usually abated after a few hours.
    Best wishes for your recovery.

  11. @Matt – Thanks for sharing your experience. I expected to be in more pain. Hopefully that is a good sign for my recovery.

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