Medical myths: You can get a hernia from lifting something heavy

Dr Max Pemberton

Rest assured, while lifting heavy objects might make you aware of your hernia, it's almost certainly not the cause. Here's Dr Max Pemberton busting the myth. 

Where did the myth come from?

I have a sneaking suspicion that this myth was created by men as an excuse to avoid heavy work about the house.

Hernias are a weakness in the muscle of the abdomen wall. This allows parts of the bowel to protrude out into a pouch-like bulge.

Many people notice that they have a hernia when they lift something, and so assume it was the lifting that caused the hernia.

 

What's the truth?

hernia

Like all the best myths, it's based on a half-truth. People notice their hernia when they strain, because this increases the pressure inside the abdomen and causes it to bulge out in the area of weakness—the hernia.

Although this makes the hernia more obvious, straining or lifting something heavy didn't actually cause it. Common causes of hernias are age, chronic cough, damage from injury or surgery or have been present since birth because the abdominal muscles didn't fuse together properly.

 

So, there's nothing to worry about?

Most hernias can be easily repaired and should be assessed by a doctor. Hernias are usually harmless, although sometimes the bowel inside them can twist, called a "strangulated hernia", and this can be serious.

If it becomes very painful or can't be pushed back in, then you should seek immediate medical advice.