If you are one of the many people who are scheduled to have surgery for a hernia, you may be wondering what to expect in terms of pain. How long will it hurt? Will the pain go away eventually? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more! We will also provide information on how to manage your pain after surgery.
- What is a hernia, and how do you know if you have one?
- How do you get a hernia?
- The different types of hernia surgery
- What to expect after surgery
- Pain months after surgery – when should it start to subside
- How to manage the pain until it does subside
- Additional tips for recovering from a hernia operation
What is a hernia, and how do you know if you have one?
A hernia is a medical condition that is caused by the protrusion of an organ or tissue through a weakened area in the muscle or surrounding tissue. Hernias can occur in any body area but most often occur in the abdomen. Symptoms of a hernia include pain, swelling, and a feeling of heaviness in the affected area.
Hernias can be difficult to detect, as many people do not experience any symptoms. However, there are a few ways to tell if you have a hernia. Pain, swelling, and a feeling of heaviness in the affected area are all common hernia symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor.
How do you get a hernia?
Most hernias are caused by strain on the muscles. This can happen when you lift heavy objects, cough or sneeze forcefully, or strain during bowel movements. Pregnant women are also at risk for developing hernias because of the added strain on the muscles.
Certain activities or occupations can also increase your risk of developing a hernia. Heavy lifting, prolonged standing, and sitting with a tight belt around your waist are all activities that can strain the muscles and lead to a hernia.
The different types of hernia
There are several different types of hernia.
- Inguinal hernia is the most common type when the intestines protrude through a weakened area in the groin.
- Femoral hernia occurs when the intestines protrude through a weakened area in the upper thigh
- Hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm.
- Umbilical hernia happens when a part of the small intestine passes through the abdominal wall near the navel.
- Incisional hernia is when the intestine pushes through the abdominal wall at previous abdominal surgery.
- A congenital diaphragmatic hernia occurs as a birth defect when your diaphragm doesn’t form right
- Ventral hernia refers to the hernia located in the midline of the abdomen.
Each type of hernia has its own set of symptoms. Inguinal hernias, for example, often cause pain and swelling in the groin area. Femoral hernias often cause pain and swelling in the upper thigh area. Hiatal hernias often cause heartburn and chest pain.
Not all hernias require surgery. Some mild ones only require monitoring and diet changes for the protrusion to go back to normal.
But if a surgical procedure is mandatory, there are three main types of hernia surgery that your doctor may recommend; open hernia repair, laparoscopic hernia repair, and robotic hernia repair.
Open hernia repair
An incision, or cut, is made in the groin during an open hernia repair. The bulging intestine is observed in the hernia “sac.” The hernia is subsequently pushed back into the abdomen, and the abdominal wall is strengthened with sutures or synthetic mesh. Most patients will be able to return home within a few hours of inguinal hernia repair surgery and will feel completely normal within a few days. Strenuous activities and exercise are prohibited for the first four to six weeks after surgery.
Laparoscopic hernia repair
A laparoscope is a piece of narrow, telescope-like equipment introduced through a tiny incision at the umbilicus, which is used in laparoscopic (minimally invasive) hernia repair (belly button). This treatment is normally done under general anesthesia, so you’ll get a complete physical examination, including a history, physical exam (and maybe lab testing), and an electrocardiogram, before the procedure (EKG).
During the groin hernia repair procedure, you will not experience any discomfort. The laparoscope is linked to a dime-sized video camera that displays an “inside view” of your body on television screens in the operating room.
The abdomen is inflated with a safe gas (carbon dioxide) to provide room for your doctor to examine your internal organs. To expose the weakness in the abdominal wall, the peritoneum (the inner lining of the abdomen) is sliced. Mesh material is inserted on the interior of the abdominal wall to conceal the flaws and reinforce the tissue.
When the surgery is done, the tiny abdominal incisions are closed with a stitch or surgical tape. The incisions are scarcely noticeable after a few months. Three little scars instead of one bigger incision, reduced possibility of severe pain or discomfort after surgery, a speedier return to work, and a shorter recovery period (days instead of weeks) are all advantages of laparoscopic hernia surgery.
Robotic hernia repair
Like laparoscopic surgery, this robotic hernia repair procedure uses a laparoscope and is performed in the same manner. In contrast to laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon in robotic surgery sits at a console in the operating room and controls the surgical tools from there.
Robotic surgery may now be utilized to repair the abdominal wall and treat minor hernias or weak sections. The use of a robot offers superb three-dimensional pictures of the inside of the abdomen, which is one of the most significant distinctions between laparoscopic and robotic surgery.
The surgeon may also quickly sew tissue and meshes within the abdomen using stitches thanks to robotic surgery.
What to expect after surgery
In most cases, the pain after hernia surgery is not permanent and will eventually resolve independently. How long it takes to go away depends largely on your age, the type of surgery you had, the location and size of the hernia, and your general health.
If you experience pain immediately after your hernia surgery, answer these questions so your caregiver will know how to help you relieve them.
- What is the source of the discomfort? Is the discomfort confined to your incision (cut), or does it spread to other parts of your body?
- How would you evaluate the pain on a scale of one to ten? (0 is no discomfort, and 10 is the most excruciating pain you’ve ever experienced.)
- What is the nature of the discomfort? Is the discomfort acute, cramping, twisting, squeezing, or crushing in nature? Is the pain searing, scorching, dull, numb, or like pins and needles?
- When did the discomfort begin? Was it a speedy start or a slow start? Is the discomfort constant, or does it come and go?
- Do you wake up from your sleep because of the pain?
- Do particular objects or activities, such as coughing or touching the region, trigger the pain to start or worsen?
- Does the nerve damage come before, during, or after meals?
- Does anything lessen the pain like changing positions, resting, medicines, or changing what you eat?
Pain months after hernia surgery: When should it start to subside
For example, after an open groin hernia repair surgery, you are likely to have pain for a few days. You may also feel tired and have less energy than normal. You should feel better after a few days and will probably feel much better in 7 days after your inguinal hernia repair, for instance.
You may feel discomfort or pull in the hernia repair for several weeks when you move. You may have some bruising around the area of the repair.
How to manage the pain until it does subside
The first thing your doctor would prescribe is medication.
- Anti-nausea medicine: Pain medicine may upset your stomach and make you feel like vomiting.
- NSAIDs: These medicines, such as ibuprofen, reduce inflammation, which helps lessen chronic groin pain.
Pain control techniques help you deal with the post-op discomfort instead of taking it away. Another procedure doctors may recommend is a minimally invasive procedure that uses electrical currents to dampen nerve pain, called nerve ablation or peripheral nerve field stimulation (electrodes are placed on the nerves to stop the pain).
Here are some ways you can practice these non-pharmaceutical methods.
Activity modification: After hernia surgery, it is critical to begin exercising as soon as possible. Moving helps with respiration and digestion and speeding up the healing process and chronic postoperative pain relief. However, it may be painful to move, even though exercising and being active might help reduce stomach discomfort over time. You may need to relax in bed at first, with your upper body propped up on pillows. This allows you to breathe more easily and reduce hernia discomfort after surgery.
Cold and hot compresses: Both cold and heat can assist relieve some forms of postoperative pain. Some forms of pain are better treated with cold, while others are better treated with heat. After hernia surgery, your caregivers will tell you if cold and heat packs will assist with your stomach pain.
Pillow: Holding a pillow firmly against your incision can help lessen the pain.
Distraction: By focusing your attention on anything other than the pain, you may divert your attention away from it. Playing cards or games, conversing with relatives, and visiting with them may help you relax and forget about your hernia discomfort. Reading or watching TV may also be beneficial.
Music: It makes no difference whether you listen to it, sing it, hum it, or play it. Music helps you breathe in more air by increasing blood flow to the brain. It boosts your energy and improves your mood. Music may also encourage your brain to produce endorphins, which reduce pain even more.
Relaxation Techniques: Anxiety and stress can exacerbate pain and hinder recovery. Because avoiding stress is difficult, learn to manage it using deep breathing exercises or meditation.
Additional tips for recovering from a hernia operation
Here are some measures to relieve pain from hernia surgery.
- Allow someone to assist you in becoming as comfortable as possible in bed, which may involve requesting additional pillows or blankets if necessary.
- Make sure the room temperature is comfortable for you.
- Allowing your back to be massaged may help you relax and relieve discomfort.
- Applying a cold towel to your hands or face may help you feel better.
- Reduce the amount of light and noise in your space.
Recovering from a hernia surgery may take a few days or weeks. Your surgeon should make sure that your healing period runs smoothly as possible to avoid and prevent hernia recurrence, with the help of pain medications and other ways to relieve discomfort and pain months after your surgery. If you feel something is off during your recovery period (persistent or chronic pain, feeling unusually sleepy or tired, nausea or vomiting, rashes, etc.) or if you have other questions you need clarification on, do not hesitate to contact your doctor right away.