Open Accessibility Menu

Do All Hernia Injuries Require Surgical Treatment?

  • Category: Hernias
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Christopher Taglia, MD, FACS, DABOM
Do All Hernia Injuries Require Surgical Treatment?

If you have been diagnosed with a hernia, you may be wondering if there are treatment options available to you other than surgery. The answer to your question is not quite black and white. The definitive treatment of a hernia is almost always surgery. However, there are many things you can do in the meantime, before a surgical procedure, to help with a hernia injury and hernia symptoms.

At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we believe that knowledge is power. This is why we like to put information into your hands when it comes to making decisions about your health. If you or a loved one is suffering from a hernia, read on to learn all about this condition and what you can do for treatment, including non-surgical and surgical options.

What is a hernia?

To understand the treatments that are available for hernias, it helps to have a quick review of what happens inside your body to create a hernia. A hernia refers to an abnormal bulging of part of your fatty tissues or intestines into a space they do not normally inhabit.

Commonly, part of your intestines will bulge or protrude through a muscular wall. This can happen if you have a weakening of this wall (due to pregnancy, obesity, connective tissue disorders, natural breakdown of tissue, or otherwise). It can also happen if you have an atypical force or series of forces applied to this wall, such as from chronic straining or coughing, heavy lifting, or trauma.

Where can hernias happen?

Hernias can bulge through many different types of muscular walls or tissue spaces. However, most commonly, they will bulge through the abdominal wall or pelvic wall. If a hernia bulges through the inner part of the upper thigh, into the groin, it is known as an inguinal hernia. If it bulges through the area of your abdominal wall around your belly button, or “umbilicus,” it is known as an umbilical hernia.

Occasionally, tissue will herniate through your diaphragm, traveling from your abdominal cavity into your chest cavity. This is known as a “hiatal hernia.” The location of your hernia can determine the type of treatment that you will need.

What kind of symptoms do hernias cause?

Any hernia treatment plan should take into consideration the hernia symptoms that you are experiencing. Your hernia symptoms will vary depending on the location of your hernia. If you have a bulge in your groin or abdominal wall, you may feel soreness or an aching feeling. This may increase after a large meal. If you have a hiatal hernia, you may experience other symptoms, such as heartburn.

Some hernias will have no symptoms at all, and you may be entirely unaware that you have a hernia until it is noticed in an imaging study or through a physical exam.

What kind of non-surgical methods can help with hernia symptoms?

The most successful and important form of treatment for a hernia is surgery. However, there are many ways to help with the symptoms of a hernia while you are waiting for surgery.

Hernia belts

Before hernia surgeries were commonplace, hernia belts were a popular form of non-surgical treatment. For people who cannot risk surgery or elect not to have hernia surgery, a hernia belt is still a viable option. Essentially, wearing a hernia belt can help reinforce a weakened muscle wall and prevent the bulging out of tissue through this wall.

Most of the discomfort of a hernia is caused by the bulging of tissue through a muscular wall, so this type of support can help relieve hernia symptoms. A hernia belt can be helpful in the interim period between a hernia injury and a hernia surgery. However, it is not a definitive cure because when you remove the belt, your hernia can still reoccur. It’s also important to note that hernia belts are not effective for certain types of internal hernias, such as hiatal hernia.


Researchers have found that certain kinds of yoga poses can help relieve the pain of small and reversible inguinal hernias. However, the type of yoga poses that should be used to help with symptoms are very specific. Some yoga poses may actually increase hernia pain or bulging by requiring increased pressure on the abdominal cavity. This is why it’s important to talk to your medical provider before trying any form of yoga for hernia pain.

Applying ice

When tissue continuously bulges in and out through a muscular wall, it can cause inflammation. Inflammation itself draws more cells and blood flow to the area, which can actually increase hernia pain symptoms. For this reason, applying ice to the area of your hernia bulge can help relieve pain. Ice can help reduce local inflammation and decrease your symptoms.

Eating non-inflammatory foods

Hernia pain can be increased when you are feeling bloated or after a heavy meal. For this reason, it can be helpful to follow a non-inflammatory diet to help reduce the symptoms of a hernia. This is particularly important if you have a known or suspected food intolerance, such as lactose or gluten intolerance. Eating plenty of fiber can also help ensure that you do not get constipated. Straining to have a bowel movement can both cause a hernia and aggravate an existing hernia.

Using pillows to brace during certain positions

If your hernia was caused by a chronic cough, then you may be well aware that your symptoms increase when you are coughing. For this reason, it can help to use a pillow or other type of large cushion to help brace your abdomen when you are coughing or sneezing. This bracing method is similar to wearing a hernia belt in that it helps reinforce your weakened abdominal wall. However, a pillow can be used on an “as-needed” basis instead of continuously wearing a support device.

Pay attention to alarming symptoms

When you are using non-surgical methods to help relieve hernia symptoms, it’s important to note that not all hernia symptoms can be managed in this way. If you are having severe hernia pain, especially if you have had a sudden change in your hernia symptoms, it could be due to a condition known as an incarcerated or strangulated hernia. This is a surgical emergency, and it is important to seek emergency care for this condition as soon as possible.

Why is surgery the most important form of hernia treatment?

Surgical intervention is the most important form of treatment for a hernia injury. This is because once a hernia occurs, it will likely not heal on its own. The weakening of your muscle wall cannot be reversed because it is nearly impossible to avoid straining and putting pressure on the wall while going about your daily activities. Instead, a hernia will continue herniating throughout the day.

You may be able to replace the hernia on your own (by laying down flat and gently applying pressure); however, without surgical reinforcement, it will likely just continue to reoccur.

When you have a chronic hernia that is going through this cycle, you risk the hernia getting progressively larger over time. You also face a risk of the hernia getting stuck or trapped in the “bulged out” position, which can sometimes cut off the blood flow to the tissue and create a surgical emergency.

What kind of surgical options exist for hernia treatment?

Hernia surgeries are typically performed as “elective procedures.” This means you get to choose the time and place of your hernia surgery. It also means that you will have the opportunity to review your surgical options with your surgeon ahead of time.

There are two main types of treatment for a hernia, laparoscopic and open.

  • During laparoscopic hernia surgery, a few small incisions are made in your abdominal cavity. These are used to allow a surgeon to inflate your abdominal cavity and insert a small camera and surgical tools. The defect in your muscle wall can be identified and then repaired on the spot. The repair may be accomplished with stitches, staples, mesh, or a combination of these. Afterward, the camera and tools are removed, the air is removed, and the small incisions are closed. This type of surgery is known as “minimally invasive.”
  • During an open hernia surgery, a surgeon will make a linear incision in your abdominal cavity and then work within this incision to repair your hernia. He or she may use stitches, staples, a mesh, or a combination of these to secure and reinforce the defect in your abdominal wall. Afterward, the incision will be closed with stitches, staples, or glue. This type of surgery is more invasive than the laparoscopic form; however, depending on your health status and the nature of your hernia, it may be a better option in some cases.

Both a laparoscopic and an open hernia surgery can treat your hernia and help ensure that it does not reoccur. This is why surgical treatment of hernias is the preferred method.

How to learn more about hernia treatment

At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we are proud to offer comprehensive hernia care for our patients, including support for non-surgical and surgical methods. Our internal medicine and family physicians are adept at helping you diagnose and manage your hernia and determine if you require surgical care from our expert surgical team. To get evaluated for a potential hernia, make an appointment with one of our providers today.