A hernia is a weakness in the muscle wall of the abdomen which allows the abdominal contents to bulge outwards, sometimes to the external environment. There are many types of Hernias such as the following: pediatric , hiatus, stoma, recurrent, incisional, and other complex hernias.
Organs and fatty tissues are held in place by connective tissues called fascia. If there is a hole or a weak spot within this fascia and there is pressure combined, the organ or fatty tissue being held in place can bulge or squeeze through this spot creating a hernia. At times, this weak spot or hole in the fascia is present at birth, other times a hernia develops later in life. Risk factors for a hernia that occurs later in life include smoking, poor dietary habits and excessive exertion. These risk factors will weaken muscles and fascia and after this happens anything that increases pressure in the area will result in a hernia. An increase in pressure could include coughing and sneezing, straining during episodes of diarrhea or during normal bowel movements, heavy lifting and obesity. The five most common types of a hernia include hiatal hernias (the upper stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm), umbilical hernias (the small intestine pushes through the abdomen near the belly button), inguinal hernias (the bladder or intestine pushes through into the abdominal wall or inguinal canal into the groin), incisional hernias (the result of the intestines pushing through the abdomen at the site on an incision following abdominal surgery) and femoral hernias (the intestine pushes into the space occupied by the femoral artery).
The Most Common Hernia
A physical examination is required for a hernia to be diagnosed. Bulging noticed in the area of the abdominal wall is a classic sign of a hernia. If it goes away while lying down or pressing on it, then it is generally not considered an emergency, although medical attention should be sought anyway. If it does not go away while lying down or applying pressure, then it is considered an emergency because the hernia may be strangulated, meaning it is cut off from necessary oxygen. The most common hernia is the inguinal hernia and this may be contributed to more pressure located in the lower abdomen due to anatomical weight of the body when in an upright position. Also, there is less muscle coverage in the groin area resulting in the groin region being an anatomically weak area of the body. Hernia symptoms include pain and localized swelling near the area of the hernia. If a chiropractic patient presents with these symptoms and a physical exam and health history produce no other cause or injury to explain the pain and swelling, a referral will be made for the proper treatment of the hernia. Surgery is required to repair the hole or weakness in the fascia and to place the organ or fatty tissue back into its proper place.
Groin or inguinal hernias can occur at any age; however, the peak incidence is during infancy and early childhood. In addition, 80-90% of these hernias occur in boys. 3-5% of healthy babies may be born with inguinal hernias with the right side being far more common compared to the left. It is much more common in boys due to the development of the testes. As the testes reach the scrotum the opening begins to close. Failure of this opening to close will result in a hernia. There will be a visible swelling or bulge in the groin region. This may only be visible when the child is crying or straining. When inguinal hernias get “stuck” it’s called incarceration. This needs to be evaluated by a pediatrician immediately if it doesn’t go back in; surgery may be necessary in some instances. Umbilical hernias are one of the most common seen in children, affecting about 20% of all children. These types are very common in premature babies, Down’s syndrome babies, and tend to run in families. 80-90% of these will close by the time the child is three years old. However, larger ones may be present until eleven years old before they finally close. Surgery is rarely required.
Contrary to abdominal or groin hernias, this type occurs in the chest area and affects the digestive system. This type causes burning sensations in the chest which may extend to below the shoulder blades. Diagnosis is done by a specialist and confirmed using an x-ray or endoscopy. Treatment may include pharmaceutical medications or surgery when severe. Some factors to avoid when a hiatus hernia is present include: spicy, acidic, hot foods, foods that are difficult to digest, smoking, alcohol, and being overweight or obese.
While Chiropractic care cannot treat any types of hernias, they may diagnose them and co-treat with medical doctors. They can influence the nervous system positively to reduce pain and inflammation. The key is early diagnose and proper treatment!
References Cited in this Article