People often ask if they can develop a hernia by doing strenuous exercise. We can develop a hernia when we perform activities that increase pressure within the abdominal cavity, causing a tear in the muscles of the abdominal wall. Some physical activities such as lifting heavy weights can result in hernias due to increased pressure within the abdominal cavity. This is often seen during activities that involve sudden twist or change in direction.
Within the groin musculature exists a natural weakness called the Hesselbach’s triangle. It is in this area that one can develop a direct inguinal hernia, one of the most common types of hernias produced by exertion. This may occur when an individual suddenly tries to lift a heavy object or push an object beyond one’s strength. This type of injury occurs more commonly among those who are out of shape or are overweight, but it can occur even among athletes, weightlifters, and body builders if they don’t follow correct lifting techniques. Statistics suggest that a hernia occurs more frequently among individuals who perform manual labor, those who are helpers or equipment cleaners. It also occurs more frequently in men, especially due to overexertion in lifting.
An umbilical or belly-button hernia is another common hernia that may be caused by strenuous physical activity. It is commonly seen among women following pregnancy, or men who are overweight.
You can avoid developing a hernia by:
- Warming up and stretching before heavy lifting
- Using proper technique for exercising and lifting weights, which includes keeping the back straight and extending from the knees
- Keeping objects close to the body to reduce stress
- Increasing weights by 5-10% each time to allow body to adapt
- Wearing a lumbar support when lifting heavy weights
- Avoiding long periods of inactivity
- Exhaling, instead of holding the breath, while lifting weight
- Identifying one’s own limit while choosing weights
Consult with a physician or exercise specialist to learn more about ways to prevent hernias.