While running, you suddenly feel an abdominal pain that gets sharper every second until it forces you to stop. The doctor diagnoses you with an inguinal hernia, and you may even have to get surgery. For a runner with this condition, the question of whether they can return to running pain-free is vital.
You can’t run with an inguinal hernia. The recovery period may vary from 1-4 weeks, depending on the hernia’s intensity, the surgery, and whether your surgeon decides to perform open or laparoscopic surgery. If it doesn’t require surgery, you can usually return to light exercise after 2 weeks of rest.
This article tells you why a runner might get an inguinal hernia and how much rest you need from running to recover. You’ll also learn about the symptoms, the best treatments, and how long you can delay surgery for this type of hernia.
How Long To Rest From Running With an Inguinal Hernia?
An inguinal hernia is a common condition in runners due to overuse of weakened abdominal muscles. The intestines push through a weakened hollow area in the abdominal wall and cause a sharp pain in your groin and belly button.
If the situation isn’t serious, your doctor will tell you to rest, refrain from running, and apply ice compression to the point of pain for 7-10 days.
After you rest for ten days, the doctor examines the bulged area to decide whether you need surgery. If the bulge in the groin remains unreduced, surgery is the only option. Following the surgery, you can start gentle exercises like walking in one or two weeks, depending on the degree of pain.
When you can start running also depends on the type of surgery your doctor performs. There are two main options: an open abdominal procedure and laparoscopic incisions. The incisions are smaller, and recovery is much quicker. The open procedure may force you to avoid running for three to four weeks since you should rest more to let stitches heal.
Here are a few tips to minimize your recovery time:
- Ask a friend or family member to help you for at least the first couple of days after the surgery so that you don’t have to get up often.
- Avoid conditions that trigger coughs, like smoking or passive smoke.
- Minimize foods that may cause inflammation, including fatty foods, processed foods, and red meat.
- Eliminate hard-to-digest foods like fast food from your diet for a few weeks. Instead, consume more fibre to keep your bowels running smoothly.
- Don’t lift and push heavy things.
When Should You Stop Running With an Inguinal Hernia?
Having a hernia can make it significantly hard for you to run, even if you don’t experience much pain. While running, the hernia may bulge and put pressure on your abdominal organs, such as your bowels. This pressure can compromise the blood flow, which in turn increases the risk of infections and necrosis.
When the situation gets this serious, the condition is called a strangulated hernia. You must stop running immediately and seek medical attention if you develop any of the following symptoms:
- Dull pain: While running, you may suddenly feel a burning sensation followed by persistent pain in your lower tummy as it spreads down your groin and thigh. The discomfort usually stops pretty soon after you stop running, and there’s little to show for it.
- Weakness: You may feel a loss of stability and power while running at a high pace. A strangulated hernia may also cause muscle fatigue and weakness in the upper leg and groin.
- Vomiting and bloating: You’re likely to experience these symptoms due to bowel obstruction. That’s because a strangulated hernia can damage bowel tissue and cause partial intestine dysfunction.
Will Running With an Inguinal Hernia Make It Worse?
When you continue running despite having a hernia, your body will take longer to recover.
Although the bulging hernia may not cause you a lot of discomfort, you can risk making your symptoms worse by running. If the hernia strangulates, it’ll become an emergency, and you may require surgery right away.
It’s also possible for an asymptomatic runner to become symptomatic if they put extra pressure on their hernia. In that case, you’ll feel intense pain that stops you from running.
Too much pressure building up your lower abdomen area is a definite sign that you should stop working out. If the feeling starts after you’ve stopped exercising, get some rest and don’t work out until you’ve consulted a doctor.
Even after you undergo surgery, you need to limit your sprints. You should rest until your suitors completely heal. Make sure you get your doctor’s permission, and even then, take baby steps. You don’t want to get back in the game too quickly, only to be bed-bound for another month.
Best Treatment for Inguinal Hernias
Some minor inguinal hernias can heal on their own if you give yourself enough rest. However, more severe cases may require treatment.
Surgery is usually the best way to fix an inguinal hernia. Doctors might use two procedures to push back the bulging tissue: open or laparoscopic surgery. Your surgeon should decide which route is better for you.
Here’s a brief description of each procedure. Remember that this isn’t medical advice, and you should always consult your doctor about the details.
Your surgeon makes a single big incision in the groin area. Then, he decides whether to remove or push back the bulge depending on its type.
If it’s a direct hernia that bulges out of the abdominal wall, the surgeon brings it back to its place. In case your hernia is caused by an abdominal defect in childhood, it’s the indirect one, and the surgeon can either push the bulge back or remove it.
In the end, the surgeon stitches the weak gap in the abdominal wall and sews the edges of tissues together.
This procedure requires a lighted tube with a camera called a laparoscope, which the surgeon inserts through the cuts. The surgeon can see inside your belly and repair the hernia the same way as the open procedure. The main advantage of this approach is that recovery is usually faster, and patients can return to their regular sports routine sooner.
How Long Can You Delay Surgery?
You can delay surgery for months or years if you don’t have any bothering symptoms and your hernia is small. Sometimes minor signs can go away by resting or applying an ice pack.
Suppose you have other health problems that make surgery dangerous, like diabetes, or you can’t stop taking specific medicines like blood thinners. In that case, it’s safe to delay surgery.
You can also take other steps to reduce the pain. However, if the pain and discomfort persist, visit a doctor. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Applying ice compression on the bulged area can help reduce pain, swelling, and redness.
- Wearing a hernia belt, can prevent your hernia from moving and causing more pain.
- The doctor can prescribe painkillers, to help ease the pain.
- By providing exercises, physical therapy can help reduce pressure and prevent the hernia from worsening.
Why Do Runners Get Inguinal Hernia?
Sudden changes of direction are a common challenge in marathons. Runners have to make twisting movements to pass them.
Since runners overuse their hip and abdominal muscles, they weaken their lower abdomen wall. As a result, intense physical activity can push the intestine into this weakened and hollow abdomen area.
What’s more, they may get a hernia because they put sudden pressure on their bodies. For example, some runners don’t stretch and warm-up before a race or gradually increase their speed.
Inguinal Hernia vs. Sports Hernia
Some people think that a sports hernia and an inguinal hernia are the same because they affect the same area in the lower abdomen. They can both be the result of running and changing direction rapidly.
Unlike an inguinal hernia, which is caused by an abdominal weakness, a sports hernia is an injury in the abdominal tissue. Moreover, a sports hernia doesn’t bulge out like its inguinal counterpart. However, if left untreated, it can turn into an inguinal hernia over time.
Despite their slight difference, the conditions can cause disabling pain and keep you out of competition for a long time unless you see a doctor immediately.
An inguinal hernia is a serious condition that often affects runners, which they usually get because their vigorous training weakens the abdominal wall and causes their intestine to push through.
If untreated, an inguinal hernia can turn into a strangulated hernia and damage the abdominal tissue by compromising blood flow.
When you’re affected with an inguinal hernia, you’re unlikely to get back to running before resting for one week. The recovery period can extend up to four weeks, depending on your surgery and doctor’s recommendations. Never start running without consulting your physician; otherwise, you may need a second surgery.