After you are successfully done with inguinal hernia surgery, you can live your life back normally, right? But before you jump right onto your life, you need to take proper rest and recover from the surgery. The biggest challenge now in front of you is that you maintain your current state because there is a fair chance of reoccurrence. 1 out of 10 post inguinal hernia surgery results in reoccurrence, so it is essential to strengthen your abdominal area.
To recover from your hernia and make sure it never occurs again we need to understand that the biggest culprit of occurrence of hernia is genetics and weak abdominal muscles, which leads to pushing and bulging out your intestines or internal body parts outwards, other factors which lead to inguinal hernia are fluid retention and overweight (fat deposition in the abdominal area) which is common as we age
So a holistic approach, wherein a balance of lifestyle changes and exercise, is suggested. It must be followed so that one properly recovers from the surgery, and no footprints are left so that the hernia occurs again. We also need to understand that hernias are not life-threatening but can worsen and become life-threatening. If ignored, they require immediate surgery, so its prevention and consultation must be done at an early stage, especially if you have a family history of developing a hernia.
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What to expect after hernia surgery
Risks factors after inguinal hernia surgery
- Risk of infection and bleeding at the surgical site.
- Sudden sharp pains near the surgical area
- Risk of nerve, artery or vein damage
- Reduced or complete blood supply cut to testicles (in males), which might result in infertility.
Road to recovery post inguinal hernia surgery
The road to recovery starts immediately when you step out of the hospital post-surgery. A timeline for your first month has been created. After that, we will discuss some exercises and stretches to make your core area stronger. Although the patient’s health condition plays a significant role in recovery from hernia mesh surgery. Any disease or illness can prolong a patient’s recovery process. It can take up to a full year, but if you do not have any other condition or any prehistory of hernias, then you can recover within 1-2 months fully by following the following guidelines and exercises.
Week 1 – The first week mostly comprises full of rest, as the surgery scar needs to be healed entirely, rather it be from laparoscopy or open surgery. Open abdominal surgery cut requires more time than a laparoscopic cut the first week is crucial. Complete rest must be taken along with somebody’s movements and walking after 3 days. Make sure no pressure or weights are to be exerted/carried by you this week.
Week 2 – You can join back your daily routine like a job, walking, driving. But this does not mean everything like running, lifting weights, etc. You should only carry objects with 20-30% weight of the weights you used to carry before surgery. No pressure should be felt near your abdomen area
Week 3 – Week 3 is what most of have been waiting for in which a little bit of exercise is to be added to your routine now; this exercise should only be using 50-60% of your total strength and power. Minimal strain to your abdominal area should be felt; at this position, exercises like brisk walking on a treadmill, lightweights, and moderate cardio can be performed.
Week 4-5 – The final week is almost where you will reach back to your regular routine and you can use 70-80% of your strength, and at this moment, you can start strengthening your abdominal area. You can start with some common abdominal stretches and partial lie-down crunches. All the abdominal strengthening exercises, precautions are enlisted below and are to be followed for 4 weeks and beyond. Patients usually should do brisk walking till they can tolerate it in these weeks.
So the question arises when I can return to my exercise routine?
Week 6 onwards – the real hustle now begins after you have healed your surgery marks and are normal. From now on, all the dietary and lifestyle changes are to be applied. You can strengthen your abdominal area and live a happy life ahead; you can use up to 90% of your strength. You can go running, swimming, lifting weights in the gym, trekking, have sex (more on this later), or go anywhere. Just make sure no sudden pressure is applied to your hernia area. You do not lift heavy weights and objects; core strengthening should be level up from now.
Hernia surgery recovery tips and precautions(do’s and don’ts)
- Do not immediately start doing any activity which you usually do
- Do not put weights or hold heavy objects in the first 2 weeks
- Avoid coughing at any cost take medication as coughing directly puts pressure onto the abdominal area
- Do not forcefully apply pressure for stool; add a laxative if you feel constipated to aid in bowel motion
- Do not hang at any cost, hanging and exercises like pull-ups, jumping, skipping, and pushups must be completely avoided for at least 4 weeks
- Avoid cigarettes and alcohol for the first two weeks to facilitate faster recovery
- Immediately stop any activity if you feel pain in that area. IF problem persists take OTC medicines like NSAIDs or Tylenol (analgesic) to relieve pain or consult your doctor or surgeon
- Take your prescriptions if any which mainly are narcotics or opioids to alleviate pain post-surgery
- Medication may cause side effects like constipation, diarrhea, dizziness and sleepiness, nausea
- Do not forcefully push yourself or exhaust your abdominal area while performing any activity
- Follow your doctor’s instruction because every case is different
- Eat a balanced diet which is high in protein and natural fiber
How long after hernia surgery can I have sex?
It is at this point end of the 4-week mark that the patients can resume sexual activity. But some people start it before this point. Moreover, it depends on the level of pain a patient is suffering from and if sex is aggravating any pain. This study even shows that some metrics of sex except sexual desire increased in post inguinal surgery as compared to before.
What exercises to perform post inguinal hernia surgery?
There are several types of exercises you can perform after your surgery to aid in a faster and successful recovery. Following exercises, which are categorized into 4 different types, each has a unique role and must be performed at a specified time post-surgery.
Include only general activities like walking, deep breathing, brisk walking. These exercises will increase your heart rate and blood flow, which will help you in bouncing back your cardiovascular levels or even increase performance. This will aid your recovery. These exercises include the following activities and can be performed after 2-3 days post-surgery but are advised to be followed after the mark of 5 days.
- Walking for 30 mins-45 mins
- Sitting and reading for 30 mins
- Brisk walking 15 mins
- Deep breathing or meditation (15 mins)
Stretching and strengthening
Including some simple stretches and strengthening your legs and arms hurts nothing and should be incorporated daily after week 1 post-surgery. These stretches will help elongate your body muscles and general strengthening like standing up without any arm intervention or picking some small objects like books. Your laptop and all the equipment you used to pick before will help strengthen your arms and legs. All the activities include:
- Driving your car
- Picking lightweight objects
- Sitting and standing without arm intervention
- Sitting down on floor
- Using screwdrivers at home, cleaning your place, etc
- Performing yoga poses like warrior, corpse, child pose, and butterfly for about 10-15 mins
- General stretching like hip rotation, arms stretching
Entering week 3 and up to the end of week 4 these exercises should be followed this is the point where you will be able to see improvements in your body, lower pain more energy, and by following these exercises will strengthen your full body performing exercises at 50-60% of your strength at the gym or outdoors these exercises include
- Using light weights at the gym
- Outdoor running, stretching and swimming
- Intermediate intensity cardio like treadmill, elliptical, Stairmaster.
This is the final path to your recovery at this movement you have made it to 80% recovery and just left with strengthening your core and legs. So that you do not again suffer from an inguinal hernia at this moment. You can use 90% of your strength in your activities; this strength training is divided into two sections, which are core strengthening and leg strengthening. Do these exercises in the 4th week or the start of 5th week as per your pain tolerance and level of healing
Core (abdominal) exercises post hernia surgery
These exercises will strengthen your core and prevent the hernia from coming back:
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground, put your hands behind your head as in the picture below and raise yourself toward the knees do not go beyond your pain tolerance limit at this time you can increase the frequency and repetition gradually week by week (rep range 10-12 reps x 3 sets)
Lay on your back with legs straight and hands sideways. Now slowly move your legs upwards and slowly descend. Use your abdominal muscles here, do not take your legs too high or put more strain onto your abdominals, gradually increase the intensity in this exercise. It can also be performed while hanging but requires more expertise if you have prior exercise experience only then try it or as per your pain and tolerance level. (Rep range 10-12 reps x 3 sets)
Lay down on your back with your knees bent and hands under your lower back. Tighten up your abdominal muscles, tilt your pelvic area forwards to flatten your spine down on your hands. Hold for a few seconds and then slowly lower down to starting position. (these are reverse of crunches)
These are the ultimate core builder, position your face towards the floor and using your arms folded in half and touching the floor and your toes touching the floor. Your spine is straight and face downwards hold in this position for 20-30 seconds with your abs contracted in this position. It will make a significant change in strengthening your core muscles. Planks must be performed in the 6 weeks as they put some strain onto your abdominals or can be added in the 5th week if your pain is absent and you can bear the strain.
Leg strengthening exercises
The following exercises must be started with low reps and frequency, and increase the repetitions as you feel more robust and healthier. These exercises will help your legs get strong and keep the blood flow well in your whole body.
These are the most native and yet effective exercises to strengthen your legs, take a chair to make sure it is rigid and will withstand your weight. Now sit down onto it and now repetitively stand and sit for about 10-15 times with less or no intervention of your arms. Do this at least 2-3 times daily to strengthen your legs.
This is the best way to build leg strength conventionally. Cycling for 10-15 mins or on a cycling machine indoors to help you gain some strength in your legs
Leg curls and squats
Squats and leg curls are the best way to strengthen your legs. If you used to go to the gym, you could try to do these exercises again. Just make sure to use comparatively lesser weights, and you are good to go.(3x sets 10 reps)
The most important thing to know is: do not rush! It takes up to 3 months to return to regular activity following hernia surgery in some cases and is completely normal, it is better to do generalized and less power consuming exercises to start with and gradually climb the ladder or perform more repetitions when you feel less pain. It is crucial to avoid heavy lifting or hanging for an extended duration until the time you are fully recovered.
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