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7 Tips for Smooth Hernia Surgery & Recovery

by Patty Weasler, RN March 15, 2021 0 Comments

Fitting back brace

Recovery after a hernia repair will vary based upon the type of hernia and surgery you had. If you had laparoscopic surgery you will likely head home the same day. But those who need a more invasive surgery may need to stay in the hospital for a few days. Your recovery will involve lots of rest, some mediations, and an eventual return to physical activity. Read on to learn all of the hernia surgery recovery tips we’ve got.

1. Follow Doctors Orders

The most important tip is to always follow the medical advice of your doctor and surgeon. They know the ins and outs of your surgery and health history, making them the expert on your recovery. Make sure to make your follow-up appointments and only resume normal activities when you get their clearance.

Learn More About Effective Hernia Treatment

2. Avoid Heavy Lifting

One of the restrictions after surgery is to avoid lifting heavy objects. Your surgeon will likely ask you not to lift anything heavier than 15 pounds, but always double-check your discharge orders for specific instructions. Heavy lifting will cause you to put pressure on your surgical incision where the hernia was closed. If you do lift something too heavy you could cause your stitches to break open, so just follow your doctor’s instructions to stay safe.

Find Appropriate Exercises for Your Hernia

3. Reduce Swelling

Some swelling after surgery is expected. But too much swelling can be painful and slow recovery. You can use over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen to reduce overall swelling and inflammation. Ice packs can be placed on and near the surgical area to reduce pain and swelling. Use them for 20 minutes at a time and make sure never to sleep with an ice pack.

Another recovery option is a hernia brace. These braces are used for inguinal hernias and put counterpressure against the hernia. They are adjustable to allow for swelling. Immediately after surgery, it might be uncomfortable to have the brace against your surgical site. So give yourself time to heal before using a brace.

4. Rest

Strenuous activities after a hernia repair is abo ut the worst thing you can do. Take the first 24 to 72 hours off of all activities to give yourself full permission to lay around. This will give your body time to heal and avoid putting stress and strain on your surgical site. You won’t need to be on full bed rest, walking around will be good to prevent stiffness. But don’t overdo it and enjoy the few days off of work.

5. Gradually Return to Activities

After surgery, your doctor or surgeon will give you a handout with a guide to your recovery. On that guide will be a specific timeline on when you can return to your regular activities. Slowly working your way from walking to light exercises will protect you from losing muscle strength and flexibility. The activity will also work to prevent blood clots by keeping your legs active and blood moving. Not all exercises are safe after surgery, check out the resource below for appropriate hernia exercises.

Hernia Exercises

6. Consult a Physical Therapist

As you slowly resume physical activities after surgery you will come across some movements where you wonder if they are safe or not. That’s where the expertise of a physical therapist comes in. These healthcare professionals are trained to teach you exactly what you can and cannot do after surgery. They will guide you through specific movements to keep you safe and help you regain the strength and flexibility you lost. 

7. Consume a Healthy Diet

Eating healthy will help all parts of your body, but after surgery it’s especially necessary to encourage fast healing. Another aspect of eating healthy that some people don’t realize is that it will encourage easy bowel movements. Probably one of the last things you think of when you think of hernia recovery. Straining from constipation will put stress on your hernia incision and can potentially cause serious problems. If you are constipated despite a healthy diet try using a stool softener to get things going. If that fails then talk to your doctor about using a laxative.

How Long Can I Expect Recovery to Take?

Your recovery time will depend upon the type of hernia you have and the type of surgery you undergo. A laparoscopic surgery uses small incisions to make the hernia repair; whereas an open surgery uses larger incisions and often involves other surgical procedures. Expect recovery to take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. Talk to your surgeon for a more specific timeline based on the surgery you had.

Post Surgery Complications

While hernia surgery is generally considered very safe there are potential complications you should know about. Here are the things you should watch out for after your surgery:

  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Incisional site rupture
  • Constipation
  • Tissue damage
  • Blood clots
  • Nerve damage
  • Return of the hernia

If you experience any complications or have any questions talk to your doctor right away.

Recovering from Hernia Surgery

Hernia repair surgery is the only true way to fix a hernia. Recovery time will depend upon the type of surgery you have but should only last up to 6 weeks. Using ice, resting, and braces will reduce pain and help get you back to all the activities you enjoy. If you have any questions about your recovery always refer to your doctor for their medical advice.


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Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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