A hernia occurs when an internal organ pushes out through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. Hernias most commonly occur in the groin and around the navel. Hernias often can be pushed back into place (reduced). Most hernias tend to get worse over time. Some abdominal hernias can get stuck in the opening (irreducible or incarcerated hernia) and cannot be reduced. An irreducible abdominal hernia which is tightly squeezed into the opening is at risk for impaired blood supply (strangulated hernia). A strangulated hernia is a medical emergency. Because of the risk for an irreducible or strangulated hernia, surgery may be recommended to repair a hernia.


  • Heavy lifting.

  • Prolonged coughing.

  • Straining to have a bowel movement.

  • A cut (incision) made during an abdominal surgery.


  • Bed rest is not required. You may continue your normal activities.

  • Avoid lifting more than 10 pounds (4.5 kg) or straining.

  • Cough gently. If you are a smoker it is best to stop. Even the best hernia repair can break down with the continual strain of coughing. Even if you do not have your hernia repaired, a cough will continue to aggravate the problem.

  • Do not wear anything tight over your hernia. Do not try to keep it in with an outside bandage or truss. These can damage abdominal contents if they are trapped within the hernia sac.

  • Eat a normal diet.

  • Avoid constipation. Straining over long periods of time will increase hernia size and encourage breakdown of repairs. If you cannot do this with diet alone, stool softeners may be used.


  • You have a fever.

  • You develop increasing abdominal pain.

  • You feel nauseous or vomit.

  • Your hernia is stuck outside the abdomen, looks discolored, feels hard, or is tender.

  • You have any changes in your bowel habits or in the hernia that are unusual for you.

  • You have increased pain or swelling around the hernia.

  • You cannot push the hernia back in place by applying gentle pressure while lying down.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.