For active people, hernia surgery is a prison sentence. No deadlifts or squats or any other strenuous activity that requires grunting. But if you have the true grit to rehab your gut, and want to recover as fast as possible from the operation, what’s the best way to go about it?
Can you and should you hit the gym as soon as possible?
That answer depends on what activity you plan on doing.
A light walk on the treadmill or around the track? Go for it.
In fact, walking is the single best activity for post-hernia-surgery-rehab.
However, don’t think you can jump out of the recovery room and go for a leisurely walk. In fact, pain, fatigue and flu-like symptoms are common post-hernia surgery symptoms. You can expect to convalesce for about 7 days.
But once you regain your strength and you’re feeling better, start walking.
Walking For Hernia Rehabilitation
Have you ever twisted an ankle? Many experts believe that “RICE” is the best therapy for recovery. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. But according to Oriental medicine, ice is antithetical to healing. While ice can mitigate bruising, applying cold to an area of the body and keeping off the ankle results in blood stagnation. It’s one thing if it’s excruciating to even take a step; then it’s wise to lay off the ankle.
OK, so what does blood stagnation in a twisted ankle have to do with hernia surgery rehab? Blood stagnation leads to poor blood circulation. And that’s why walking is so vital for post-hernia surgery recovery.
Even if it’s just a 5-minute walk a couple times a day, getting the blood flowing is crucial for overall health. Your gut needs fresh blood circulation, too. Especially after surgery. Try to build up your strength and endurance. If you only have the energy to take a 5-minute walk one day, see if you can go a little longer the next.
Deep Breathing Exercises Following Hernia Surgery
Even without surgery, your life was probably stressful enough. One consequence of modern-day stressors is our breathing patterns. Stress induces shallow breathing; negative stressors can even make us hold our breath.
You already have a compromised abdominal wall, hence your hernia surgery. (If you have mesh implanted, hopefully it won’t become defective.) If you don’t want to develop another physical defect—hypercapnia—then you need to learn how to breathe more deeply. Hypercapnia is an excess of carbon dioxide in the body, which is caused by hypopnea, the medical term for shallow breathing.
Taking shallow breaths, especially through the mouth negatively affects health in several ways. In addition to the risk of developing hypercapnia, shallow breathing lowers the amount of white blood cells (lymphocytes) and immune signalling cells. This makes you more vulnerable to becoming infected by viruses.
On the other hand, practicing intentional deep breathing (only babies unconsciously practice deep breathing) offers several positive benefits. For instance, it lowers blood pressure, eases anxiety and improves brain function.
Granted, in the immediate days following your surgery, it will be too painful to practice deep breathing, which involves consciously pushing out your belly (inflate it like a balloon) and also expanding the chest. But as the days go by and the pain fades away, you will be able to breathe more deeply. Your doctor will likely give you an elastic bandage (an abdominal binder) before you leave the hospital after your surgery. Wear it while you practice deep breathing. Alternatively, you can place a pillow over your abdominal area and apply light pressure while breathing. (Push out the pillow on the inhale.)
Preventing Hernia Recurrence
Sorry, there’s no way around it… You must do some abdominal exercises if you want to decrease the likelihood you’ll have another hernia.
The good news is you don’t have to do Rocky Balboa sit ups until you pass out. In fact, there’s a really simple exercise you can do while lying in bed and watching TV. To begin, take a deep breath. If you read the section above, you know that means to expand your belly and your chest. On the exhale, pull your belly button in towards your spine. This pulling in of the belly button takes more effort than the exhale of deep breathing. In this exercise, you not only deflate the belly, you need to actively pull your navel down towards the bed or couch.
If you’re financially able to do so, try a few sessions of physical therapy or consult with a personal fitness trainer who has experience in corrective exercise and rehabilitation. Check with your health insurance provider; your policy may cover physical therapy.
Just remember that you won’t be back to full strength for perhaps up to a few months. Take it very easy at first. Build up your strength and endurance gradually. And make sure you practice these tips every day.