People often ask if exercise can cause a hernia. A hernia may occur when certain activities increase pressure against the abdominal wall or against a muscle weakness in the abdominal wall. Certain strenuous physical activities and exercise, such as those that involve heavy lifting, pushing or pulling, can cause a hernia due to increased pressure within the abdomen. It most often occurs during sports or activity that requires sudden changes of direction or intense twisting movement.
A hernia in the groin is called an inguinal hernia and is considered the most common type of hernia caused by excess strain, as the groin is the weakest region of the abdomen. These hernias most commonly occur when you suddenly try to lift weights or push heavy objects beyond your strength, or indulge in a stringent exercise routine when you are out of shape or overweight. Weightlifters, body builders and manual laborers are also at a risk of developing a hernia, if they do not follow proper lifting techniques. Statistics show that a hernia occurs more commonly among helpers, equipment cleaners, handlers, and laborers, and is more common in men, especially due to overexertion in lifting (60%).
An umbilical hernia, or belly button hernia, is the second most common type of hernia that may be caused by strenuous activity. This type of hernia is also common in women after pregnancy.
A hernia can be avoided by:
- Stretching or warming up before lifting a heavy object to avoid stretching a muscle
- Using the right method for exercising and lifting weights:
- Keeping your back straight and pushing from your leg muscles (as they are stronger than your back muscles) while lifting
- Bending from your knees and not from your waist
- Keeping the object close to your body
- Gradually increasing weights while exercising
- Supporting your back with a weight lifting belt, when lifting weights
- Not overdoing exercises
- Avoiding pulling or pushing exercises that force you to hold your breath
- Being careful while performing curls, crunches, dead lifts or benching
- Avoid lifting objects that are too heavy for you
- Remembering to breathe correctly while exercising to stabilize your core
Talk with your doctor to learn more about the causes of a hernia and ways of preventing it.