What Does a Hernia Feel Like? Understand the Signs and Symptoms

What does a hernia feel like

Hernias on the abdominal wall are among one of the most common surgical problems. There are more than one million abdominal wall hernia repairs performed each year in the United States.

An inguinal hernia makes up nearly 770,000 of the cases. About 90 percent of inguinal hernia treatments are performed on males.

So what does a hernia feel like? And, how to know if you have a hernia? Knowing this will allow you to discover if the pain you are experiencing is from a hernia or something else.

Related Reading: Epigastric Pain: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments for Upper Central Abdominal Pain


What is Hernia?

There are many different types of hernias including inner groin, outer groin, femoral, inguinal, umbilical, hiatal, and incisional.

A hernia is the result of fatty tissue or an organ protruding from the muscle surrounding it.

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Men are more susceptible to inguinal hernias because they have a natural weakness in the groin area. The bladder or intestine protrudes in the groin area through the abdominal wall.

A femoral hernia is common in pregnant or obese women. It occurs due to soft tissues passing through the femoral artery.

An umbilical hernia can occur in newborns, obese women, or women with many children. In children, umbilical hernia appears as a bulge at the belly button and settles by itself after a year.

An incisional hernia may happen to elderly or overweight people who have undergone an operation and remain inactive.

A hiatal hernia or an abdominal hernia is when the upper stomach squeezes through the hiatus.


What Does a Hernia Feel Like?

What does a hernia feel like in the stomach? When you have a hernia, you may experience:

  • Heaviness or pressure in stomach
  • Burning or tingling sensation in the abdomen
  • Dull ache
  • Weakness

A lump or bulge in the abdomen area is the most common symptom of a hernia. This is how most people describe what does a hernia feel like.

The symptoms can become aggravated when:

  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Coughing
  • Straining the abdominal muscles
  • During bowel movements

In most cases, resting can help relieve these symptoms.

Women who develop a hernia feel mild discomfort or burning sensation in the affected area. Most women don’t feel anything at all.

Hernias often get overlooked as the symptoms are very mild compared to the other health problems. Hernias do grow in size over time. You may experience vomiting, nausea, and severe pain when the condition becomes severe.

An umbilical hernia is when the abdomen of your infant stretches when he or she cries or coughs. If the baby is vomiting, it can be a sign of a hernia. Normally a slight bulge is the only symptom of an umbilical hernia.

If you develop an inguinal hernia, you’ll notice a lump on either side of the pubic bone, where your thigh and groin meet.

There are some other common symptoms of a hernia. When you have an inguinal hernia, you may feel like:

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  • Pressure, weakness, or heaviness in the abdomen
  • Burning, gurgling or aching where the bulge is located
  • Discomfort or pain in the affected area, especially when lifting, coughing, or bending over

Symptoms of a hiatal hernia may include:

In some cases with a hernia, you may not have any symptoms at all. Hernias often go unnoticed as most of the people are unaware of what does a hernia feel like. Sometimes you may only find it during a routine physical examination.

However, a hernia can turn into a serious health condition over the time. Therefore, you should visit your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above (1) (2) (3).


Diagnosis of Hernia

When you feel like you have a hernia, you need to seek medical help for proper diagnosis. A physical examination can help diagnose an inguinal and incisional hernia. The doctor may feel a bulge in the abdomen or groin that grows in size when you a cough, stand, or strain.

A hiatal hernia may be diagnosed by a barium X-ray or an endoscopy. A barium X-ray is X-ray picture of your digestive tract captured after you drink a barium liquid solution.

An endoscopy can also be performed if you feel hernia symptoms. It involves inserting a camera threaded to a tube down your throat into your stomach and esophagus.

A hernia in children can be diagnosed with an ultrasound. An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal body parts.


Hernia Treatment Options

Now you know what does a hernia feel like, here are some treatments for the same. The treatment option can be decided depending on the size and severity of a hernia.

If it’s not very severe, your doctor may just monitor a hernia and see if there are any complications.

The treatment options include:

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1. Medications

Prescription and over-the-counter medications that reduce stomach acid may be useful. These medicines help you relieve the pain and improve the symptoms of a hiatal hernia.

Antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H-2 receptor blockers are some of the prescriptions you can try. Always consult with your doctor before taking any medicine for a hernia.

2. Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can help treat a hiatal hernia. Below are the dietary changes you need to follow when you feel like you have a hernia:

  • Avoid a heavy meal
  • Eat slowly
  • Avoid bending over after a meal
  • Eat in smaller portions
  • Avoid spicy foods, chocolate and other foods that cause heartburn
  • Stop smoking
  • Keep away from alcohol

If the dietary changes don’t eliminate your discomfort, you may need to undergo surgery.

3. Surgery

If a hernia continues to grow and if the pain becomes unbearable, your doctor may recommend surgery. It involves sewing a hole in the abdominal wall.

It is done by using surgical mesh to patch the hole. Surgery for a hernia can be performed in two ways — open surgery and laparoscopic surgery.

Laparoscopic surgery is when the doctors use a tiny camera and mini surgical equipment to repair a hernia with only a few small incisions. It is less invasive and less damaging to the tissue surrounding the area.

Open surgery takes a long time for recovery. You may not be able to move around normally for up to six weeks.

Laparoscopic is less invasive, but the chances of your hernia recurring are higher. Not all hernias are suitable for laparoscopic surgery.


How to Prevent Hernia?

In most cases, inguinal hernias are the ones that can’t be prevented.

However, there are a few general precautions that you can take to reduce the risk of a hernia. These include:

1. Monitor Your Weight

Being overweight creates a lot of abdominal pressure and greatly increases the chance of an inguinal hernia. Staying on a consistent healthy dietary plan will help incredibly.

2. Avoid Rapid Weight Loss or Crash Dieting

Rapid weight loss or crash diets are not only unhealthy but also dangerous. Sudden weight loss deprives your body of vitamins and nutrients needed to stay healthy. It can cause your body to crash as well as weaken the abdominal muscles.
Other precautions to take include:

  • Stop smoking
  • Use proper body mechanics, avoid lifting heavy weights
  • Try not to strain during bowel movements

Now you know what does a hernia feel like you can follow the tips and guidelines in this article to treat it and take some preventive measures to avoid reoccurrence.


Video Credit: Free Health and Fitness Tips

Dr. David Cummings, MD

Dr. David Cummings, MD

David Cummings, MD, is a medical reviewer and editor at Daily Health Cures. David received his medical degree from the University of Illinois.