Painful Abdominal Hernias

A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue protrudes through a weak spot or opening in surrounding muscles. The different locations of potential hernias mean that the various forms may come with their own unique symptoms. Some of the types of hernia more commonly associated with pain in the abdomen include:

  • Umbilical Hernia – This occurs when a piece of the small intestine pokes out through the abdominal wall near the naval. These common hernias are generally harmless. They may affect adults, but are far more common in infants. In babies, umbilical hernias typically resolve themselves within one year. If the hernia does not resolve itself or if an umbilical hernia is present in an adult, surgery may be required to fix the problem. Pain may become present if complications arise. The telltale sign of an umbilical hernia is a bulge or lump near the navel, which becomes more pronounced with straining, coughing, or crying. Seek emergency medical care if an umbilical hernia has been diagnosed and the patient, regardless of age, develops pain surrounding the herniated area, nausea, vomiting, or discoloration of the bulge.

  • Inguinal Hernia – An inguinal hernia is typically not harmful in and of itself. This occurs when a bit of the intestine slips through a weak spot in the groin. An inguinal hernia is often accompanied by a bulge on the side of the pelvic bone, a burning or aching sensation near the bulge, a dragging sensation or pain in the groin that becomes worse with certain movements or actions, such as bending over or coughing. Sometimes affected men may experience pain and swelling around the testicles. The patient may be able to gently push the hernia back into place while lying on his/her back. Elevating the pelvic area and icing the groin often helps relieve symptoms. Depending on the size and severity of the hernia, your doctor may recommend simply watchful waiting or, in more serious cases, surgery to repair the hernia.

  • Incisional Hernia – An incisional hernia may occur following an abdominal surgery, when a bit of intestine slips into a weakened area caused by a surgical incision. This sometimes does not occur until months or even years following surgery. Incisional hernias are more common with vertical incisions. Additional risk factors include obesity, advanced age, use of steroid medications, lung problems following surgery, infection at the incision site, or multiple surgeries following the same incision. Symptoms may vary based on the surgical site, but incisional hernias may be very painful. Your doctor will help determine the best course of action for the particular location and severity of the hernia.

If you experience any abdominal pain or discomfort, especially with a prior diagnosis of hernia, contact your doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if a known hernia becomes extremely painful, discoloration occurs at the hernia site, or nausea, vomiting, or fever accompany the hernia.


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