A hernia is the protrusion of an organ from its own cavity or space into another. This usually occurs through muscle but can also occur through any membrane.

There are over 170 areas where a hernia may occur. The most common are inguinal hernias , a hernia following pregnancy down the midline of the abdomen and incisional hernia. All these occur because of a weakening of the abdominal muscles with a protrusion of the bowel or the omentum – the fatty tissue that carries all the blood vessels, nerves and lymphatic system to and from the bowel itself. These are all, effectively, external hernias. Internal hernias may be just as common, as in a hiatus hernia, which is a protrusion of the stomach through the diaphragm.

Most hernias are repairable, usually by surgery and more rarely by exercise techniques and naturopathic medicines that strengthen musculature. Hernias only become serious if the organ that is herniating is a vital one, such as the brain, which can herniate down through a membrane that effectively divides the brain into an upper and lower part. Hernias that obstruct or pinch an organ, thereby compromising its normal function or blocking its blood flow, can lead to gangrene, which can be fatal if not treated.

A small muscular tear may repair but at least six weeks of very careful non-exertion of the muscle group must be maintained.

Applications of Arnica creams four times a day to the area may be beneficial.

If the initial strain is painful, use Arnica 6 every 15min for up to 2hr.

Discuss options for strengthening the muscle group with an osteopath or a sports injury physiotherapist.

Acupuncture may speed up the healing.

Inguinal hernia

The inguinal hernia deserves a special mention because it is the most common and the most commonly referred to. There are two types: indirect and direct inguinal hernias.

The indirect inguinal hernia occurs because of a weakening at the top end of a small canal down which the testicle descends from the abdomen into the scrotal sack in the latter stages of foetal development or the early part of life. A membrane forms but this can be torn with excessive internal pressure, often created through pregnancy, excessive coughing or strain.

The direct hernia occurs usually because of a muscular strain, often by incorrectly picking up an object that is too heavy. Here, the abdominal wall tears and the gut protrudes through. In both cases the hernia may be reducible or not, depending on whether the lump can be reduced. The danger signs are a non-reducible lump that becomes painful, apart from the initial tear that may occur with the strain. This suggests a compromised blood flow and must be treated as an emergency.


All lumps and bumps that are unexplained, persistent or painful should be reviewed by a GP. Surgical intervention may be necessary .