So you have felt a vague pain in your lower abdomen for some time, and then, one day, you noticed a bulge in that area. It’s pretty scary, but don’t worry! It’s not dangerous. It’s simply a loop of your intestine that popped out through the abdominal lining and is pushing against your skin. It’s an inguinal hernia! More than one million inguinal hernias are diagnosed every year in the United States, so you are not alone, and, almost always, there are no serious consequences; just some discomfort. In any case, the hernia may bother you and sometimes feel sensitive and painful.
What can you do about it?
Visit your doctor. Your doctor will diagnose it in an instant: it’s an inguinal hernia! The only cure, the doctor will tell you, is surgical repair; the surgery is an outpatient procedure performed by a general surgeon, and it will solve your problem right away.
Whoa!!! Not so fast! There might be some options to consider. Let’s try to examine the situation more carefully.
What is going on?
In lay terms, there are three different conditions that can cause the symptoms of an inguinal hernia:
- A tear in the abdominal wall
- A birth defect
- A loss of muscle tissue
The first two conditions can be resolved only through surgery. However, the third condition – loss of muscle tissue – can often be resolved through appropriate exercise. In this case, the condition is caused by loss of muscle tissue in the large abdominal muscles; for example, by creating a gap between the rectus abdominis and the abdominus oblique muscles.
How would you know which condition you have?
That’s a tough question, since non-invasive methods to differentiate between these three conditions are hard to come by. Some MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) techniques are being explored, but, at present, it seems that no accurate diagnosis can be made from the outside, so to speak.
So how would you know what is the cause in your case?