When suffering from a hernia, the majority of patients will undergo surgery to repair the affected area. Although fairly rare, many patients do not consider the significant risks involved — including chronic pain, post-surgery. In minor cases, could yoga be used as a potential treatment option?
What is a hernia?
A hernia is simply when tissue or an organ begin to protrude, based on a defect with the surrounding area. Although a hernia can occur anywhere throughout the body, the most common areas tend to be in the groin or abdomen — with the highest prevalence being inguinal hernia. This occurs when intestinal or fatty tissue pushes through the inguinal canal.
In fact, approximately 75 percent of hernias occur in the inguinal region. If you experience a lump in your groin area, pain — especially when lifting heavy objects, swelling within your scrotum, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, these are key symptoms that a hernia has developed.
The benefits of yoga when treating a hernia
It is not recommended that you self-diagnose a hernia and seeking medical advice is critical. When reversible, these hernias can be treated without surgery. Although a number of exercises have been highlighted, scientific research was lacking for the use of yoga therapy when treating a hernia.
Within one study, published in the International Journal of Yoga, it was found that yoga therapy significantly reduced pain, aggravating factors, and frequency of occurrence when focusing on reversible inguinal hernias. The best positions and yoga-related exercises should be discussed with a specialist.
When reducing symptoms through yoga practices, inverted postures tend to be the most useful. Both Navasana and Ardhanavasana are great for strengthening abdominal muscles, however, all dynamic positions, such as Chakrasana and Pashimottanasana should be avoided.
It’s important to note that once a gap has been made, surgery will be required to close it. In this case, yoga and other gentle exercises can help you avoid a recurrence. While strengthening your muscles and reducing body fat, you can prevent future damage and live a more balanced lifestyle.
Physiotherapy and lifestyle changes
If you do require surgery in order to repair your hernia, physiotherapy treatment can reduce pain while regaining strength after an operation takes place. Once you undergo surgery, you will need to wait at least two weeks before you begin yoga or a gentle exercise program.
Of course, each case is unique and you should follow the directions provided by your doctor and/or physiotherapist. Some of the best exercises after hernia surgery include:
- Single-leg raising — Lie down with your arms by your sides — inhale, slowly raise your leg without bending your knee, then exhale as you lower it. Begin with five leg raises for each leg and gradually increase as you heal. When recovering from hernia-repair surgery, you should practice single-leg raising three times daily. Avoid any strain on your abdomen and raise your legs up to 60 degrees.
- Head lifting — Lie straight with your arms by your sides — exhale, raise your head, shoulders, and arms. Simply hold for a few seconds, then inhale as you come back down. Repeat twenty times as long as you do not experience any pain in your neck or abdomen.
- Breathing exercises — Not only will deep breathing exercises make you more aware of effective breathing techniques, but they will also help you manage stress levels. Stress often aggravates hernias, which is another reason why yoga is so beneficial.
Whether you’re aiming to heal a minor hernia naturally or are recovering after surgery, it’s imperative that you make key lifestyle changes. In terms of your diet, focus on plenty of protein, such as cottage cheese, tuna, beans, Greek yogurt, eggs, lentils, and natural peanut butter.
It’s also important that you consume plenty of fibre to alleviate constipation. In order to maintain a healthy body weight, consume a whole food diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and seeds. Also, if you smoke, it’s highly recommended that you quit to reduce coughing — improving your ability to heal.
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