What kind of pain does an inguinal hernia cause?
An inguinal hernia is a protrusion of abdominal contents into and sometimes through the inguinal canal. The inguinal canal contains blood vessels, spermatic vessel and nerves that travel to the testicle. When a hernia occurs, the contents of the hernia compresses these structures, often leading to a feeling of heaviness, pressure or even pain. The pain may be localized to the bulge, or the pain may radiate (shoot down) to the scrotum (the sac where the testicles are) or inner thigh. Some people describe intense pressure or even burning. Most people feel pain at the end of the day, after prolonged standing or sitting. Most people get relief of pain when they lay down flat. It is rare to feel sharp stabbing pain with a hernia, as this kind of pain is often due to a musculoskeletal injury.
How do I relieve pain from an inguinal hernia?
Many people who suffer from discomfort or pain from an inguinal hernia find that laying down flat on their backs can relieve most of their symptoms. Some find it necessary to massage the hernia back into their abdomen. While we advise most patients we have evaluated that it is safe to to this in the short term, there is no substitute for surgery. Surgery will alleviate the pain of most people within a few days. Anyone that has pain that restricts their activity level should be evaluated by an experienced hernia surgeon to understand their options. Over-the-counter pain medication use is not typically advised, as pain severe enough to warrant medication is often an indication for surgical intervention. Recent data suggest that prescribing opioids before surgery increases a patients risk of becoming opioid dependent after surgery – a practice we don’t condone.
Relieving hernia pain with a hernia belt or truss
Some patients are unable to schedule their surgery right away, usually because of a work commitment, planned vacation, or current medical situation. A hernia belt or hernia truss can be a great bridge to surgery in these scenarios. Most local hospital supply pharmacies carry a hernia truss that can easily fit over undergarments. The truss should be put on while the patient is lying flat, with the hernia fully reduced. By tightening the truss in this position, the hernia contents will be kept inside the abdominal cavity. This option helps most patients with pain management for the short term until they can schedule surgery.
Relieving pain after hernia surgery
No two people are the same, yet research on our unique repair demonstrates that most of our patients use only Tylenol and or Motrin after inguinal hernia surgery. As a result of our research we reduced the number of tablets we prescribe for most patients. In our practice, we provide most patients a prescription for 6 tablets of an opioid (usually oxycodone or Vicodin) after surgery with the instructions to fill the prescription later in the day, only if they feel their pain is not well managed by Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin/Advil (ibuprofen). We advise that our patients alternate these over-the-counter medications, permitting them to take something every 4 hours for the first day or two. We often recommend icing the area for 20 minutes at a time, through a towel, so that ice does not come into contact with the skin directly. In patients who have a higher degree of pain than normal, or patients who have a history of chronic pain or substance use disorder, we sometimes partner with our pain specialist to provide a more customized approach to pain management. Treating pain post-operatively is often a balance between making patients comfortable and exposing them to substances that have the potential for serious side effect and possible addiction. While we strive to make our patients as comfortable as possible with the generous use of local anesthesia during surgery, we advise our patients that having some discomfort or pain after surgery is preferred to some of the side effect of opioids. The Americas Hernia Society Quality Collaborative has been working hard to provide patients with information about ways to manage their post-op pain.
About Dr. Reinhorn
Dr. Michael Reinhorn is a specialist in inguinal hernia and umbilical hernia. Dr. Reinhorn started his practice as a full service general surgeon in 2001. In 2012 Dr. Reinhorn started to focus on the care of hernia and pilonidal patients. This focused practice has been designed to provide a superior clinical experience. Dr. Reinhorn has published his outcomes and continues to participate in hernia and surgery societies. His research led to a reduction in opioid prescribing after hernia surgery. His team performs approximately 400 hernia surgeries every year. Currently Dr. Reinhorn serves as the chair of the Opioid Reduction Task Force of the Americas Hernia Society Quality Collaborative.
A patient’s testimonial about pain relief
The whole experience was great. Post-surgery pain was minimal, handled with advil only. The hernia repair has eliminated the pain and discomfort completely. Dr. Reinhorn and his team were as good as it gets.
11/25/15 – vitals