When can I exercise after hernia surgery?

Return to exercise two weeks after hernia surgery

Returning to exercise after hernia surgery is a question that our patients often ask. Many of our patients exercise routinely and want to get back to activity as quickly as possible. As former athletes and currently active individuals, we understand the need to get back to activity quickly. We allow our patients to return to normal physical activity at two weeks, including exercise. We generally tell our patients to slowly increase intensity once they resume exercise after hernia surgery.

Rationale for the two week restriction on activity after hernia surgery

After a preperitoneal repair (Lap or Open), most surgeons allow their patients to resume full physical activity, without restriction, at two weeks. We feel that two weeks is enough time for the mesh to scar down in place and not move from where it was positioned during surgery. While we typically suture the preperitoneal mesh to the abdominal wall, the mesh may take a couple of weeks to start to become incorporated to the abdominal wall. If patients resume exercise after hernia surgery earlier than two weeks post-op, the healing process can be disrupted.  This can lead to recurrence of the hernia, or in rare cases, postoperative bleeding.   Because of the small risk of hernia recurrence or bleeding, we recommend that patients refrain from heavy lifting and exercising for two weeks. We suggest avoiding lifting any single object weighing more than 25 pounds, and avoid repetitive lifting of any object. Repetitive movements such as squatting, bending, running can also lead to disruption of the mesh healing into the abdominal wall. We recommend that our patients limit their activity to walking for the first two weeks after surgery. Walking even up to a few miles a day is safe, as long as it is at a leisurely pace.

Exercise after Shouldice (Non-Mesh) Inguinal hernia repair

Since 2015, we have been offering the Shouldice hernia repair, which is a non-mesh repair developed and performed regularly in Toronto, Canada.. In this repair, the body’s natural tissues (rather than mesh) are used to repair the hernia defect. This repair is performed in 4 layers, using a permanent single strand suture to bring the tissues together. While the body’s tissues take time to heal, much of the strength of the repair relies on the sutures. Therefore, once the repair is done, it is almost as strong as it will ever be. We therefore do not place absolute restrictions after the Shouldice hernia repair. We encourage our patients to go for a walk the day after surgery, and resume activity whenever they see fit, typically 2-4 weeks after surgery.  Because the Shouldice repair involves a lot more suturing than the preperitoneal repair, there is enough pain and discomfort to limit most patients activities for a couple of weeks after surgery. For patients doing heavy manual labor, we typically recommend taking an extra few weeks after surgery. After a Shouldice repair, we feel that patients can resume exercise after about two to three weeks. Some patients may take more or less time.


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 provid 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.

What patients are saying about returning to exercise after hernia surgery

If you need hernia surgery, Dr. Reinhorn and his assistant Lauren should be the only doctor and assistant you consider. His innovative procedure was completely pain free immediately after the procedure. I was back to work in 2 days and was walking 5 miles within 5 days. I will be back in the gym next week after 3 weeks off. Things couldn’t have gone better.

Written on 12/23/16 – vitals.com