Integrative Medicine

My Hernia


This post started out as a reply to a comment from AZ. But, because I am still learning to edit myself to say more with fewer words, I have exhausted the allowable space in the comment section 🙂

AZ wrote:

“Thank you so much for a thorough and helpful advice. I really appreciate the time you have taken to respond to me, including attaching the links for easy navigation. Your thought of “saving me time” in attaching the links is recognized and valued. Thank you again very much. I have to come up with some in bed stretching routine that does not involve laying on my back, since as you know, at this point in pregnancy, even that is not allowed 
I am somewhat active still, running around after my toddler and my dog  walking, cleaning, the usual household chores one does, but not nearly as active as in my first pregnancy. I was even using a kettle bell and a medicine ball in the beginning, until I noticed every time I would do a strenuous move or lift, my hernia above my bellybutton would stick out even more, so I decided not to “promote” it’s growth. I will try your suggestions and let you know how it goes. Thank you again, Sincerely,

I realize that the post below may only be interesting to a very select group, however, it is alarming at how common hernia’s are and how unaware most of us are about how they are caused and what we can do to prevent them.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, not only was I uncomfortable during my third trimester, but I also found it very challenging to be pregnant with a toddler in tow. I remember taking comfort, in imagining that things could only get better and more manageable once the second baby was born. Some things were easier, like actually being able to bend down to tie a shoelace. But, while bio-mechanically the body is somewhat like its old self post-partum, other challenges surfaced, like being so tired from lack of sleep and in an effort to keep the calm, always trying to anticipate my toddlers’ actions and emotions in order to be one step ahead of tantrums or falls, etc. I think my nerves were so shot from being on duty 24 hours per day that I often found myself carrying both the newborn and the twenty-three month old simultaneously. I think that feat of strength falls under the heading of over-worked adrenals and the super-human-mommy-survival mechanism. Oh, and managing two Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

All the above, just to tell you, that all that unnecessary lifting (and the tons I did during the second pregnancy – because I could!) may have contributed to my developing an umbilical hernia. The hernia that I didn’t even know I had until the summer of 2010, which was a long time after having my kids.


My navel looked kind of bizarre during and after both pregnancies (2002, 2004), but I chalked it up to just that: two pregnancies is going to leave their mark. Besides, I thought my new outie belly button was kind of cute during my pregnancy! Now that I reflect on it, I find it interesting that none of my health care practitioners noticed it or if  they did, never commented on it. Maybe, because it was so small it really did look just like an outie? I only discovered the hernia after doing a workout, which (similar to you) involved using a Kettlebell for a Turkish-Get-Up or weighted sandbag sit-up. After this particular workout, when for whatever reason, I touched my navel to discover how incredibly sensitive it had become. Suddenly, I noticed how certain movements caused a little pea-sized something to pop out. It left me feeling nauseated!

Unfortunately, a few days after I discovered the hernia, we went on a family vacation to the lake so I had to wait a week before seeing my doctor. I could still do everything, save for certain movements, which caused minor discomfort – though I avoided touching my navel entirely, except for occasionally pushing the little ‘pea’ back in.

Upon our return, I visited my doctor who sent me for an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed that it was only a partial hernia, since nothing had broken through the fascia. A visit with a general surgeon suggested that it looked as though this weakness could very well have been there since MY birth and that the two pregnancies combined with certain exercises and quite possibly the nine months of an intense chronic cough, may have made it worse. Knowing that I was a very active person, the surgeon recommended a basic suture, which would prevent it from becoming a full hernia and it would only leave less than a one-inch scar on the fold of the skin just above my navel. (The idea of the scar didn’t bother me).

The surgeon compared the procedure to going to the dentist; it may be uncomfortable at times but manageable. Post-operation, he said that I’d be able to get back to my regular routine, even exercise (clearly NOT High Intensity Exercise, but able to resume exercise) the very next day! Described like that, I figured that I could handle it considering I endured the pain of two home births. Yeah, go ahead, I can take what you’ve got…It’s funny-peculiar, how enduring the pain of the home births used to mean something to me, like if I could handle that I could handle just about anything. Somehow, I’ve lost my ability to handle certain things, (mostly observing and dealing with others’ accidents), which I won’t digress about here, but believe me I have been found on more than one occasion in a crumpled heap feeling nauseated, moaning for my mommy.

On November 9, 2010, I drove myself to and from my surgery. The surgeon’s description about the simplicity of the procedure was spot on, except that for whatever reason, my body didn’t quite heal as quickly as it should have. Quite possibly, because of my previous tendency for joint inflammation, my recovery lasted nearly ten days, as opposed to the usual three to five days!! It took an additional fourteen days before I could get back to my usual routine.

When I went for my ten-day follow up appointment, my surgeon was genuinely astonished by my experience. Meanwhile, I’d been cursing his name under my breath, wondering what kind of a joker-surgeon had I been dealing with. Ha, Ha, just wait till she tries to do…anything. Muahahaha!!! 🙂

In all seriousness, he was a lovely person and highly respected general surgeon. We agreed that my slow recovery must have been due of the ‘Palindromic Rheumatism’, which I had been diagnosed with the previous year. (Though I’ve been able to eliminate any joint pain and inflammation by strictly following ER4YT, eliminating all gluten and consulting with an MD, who consults in homeopathy and Integrative Medicine).

For nearly ten days, post-operation, I couldn’t do anything without intense pain. Driving home after the surgery was uneventful, though, I just had to be cautious and aware of the incision. And because I was told that I could go about my usual daily activities, I did just that. But later in the day when I went to pick my kids up from school, the simple act of turning the steering wheel became awfully difficult. So I got the message and had no choice but to take it much slower. Over the next few days, I couldn’t walk the dogs, for any sudden pull of the leash made me wince with pain. Vacuuming was next to impossible not to mention simply turning over in bed or getting up from a chair! That experience only reminded me how much we depend upon our core for absolutely every minute movement. Only once a part of us is out of commission do we realize how much it actually does for us.

Now, at the beginning of June 2012, it has been a year and a half since I had this minor surgery and quite frankly I’d forgotten all about it until I read AZ’s comment. However, as a result, I DO NOT include the above-mentioned exercises as part of my regular workout routine anymore – because I don’t NEED to do them. And quite frankly, I don’t know if I every really needed to do them to be super fit. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of challenge and lose our grounding in common sense in the process; whether because we have a need to prove our fierceness to ourselves or others. I will do Prisoner-Get-Ups from time to time, but under no circumstances will I perform full sit-ups, with or without a sandbag. Besides it being a useless exercise, which leads to lower back problems because it recruits the psoas muscles to pull the torso up to seated as opposed to the abdominal group. There are a lot of fancy exercises that are in vogue these days, that fall into the useless category, that are causing more harm than good; however, because it’s unlikely that doing those exercises once in a while probably won’t cause much damage, but then we have to really think about WHY? we would do them in the first place? What is our motivation? Our best bet is to stick with the basics, but also to work with an expert who can identify which basic exercises will actually be beneficial for our specific needs. Sure, we can go ahead and do exercises, which are not appropriate for us and survive…(clearly, there are worse things we can do!). But, from my perspective, if we’re going to bother in the first place, doesn’t it make sense to at least try to do it right? I have come to have this same opinion about food as a result of exploring which foods actually support my health. We can go ahead and eat anything for energy, but if we’re going to bother, doesn’t it make sense to do the research and fuel ourselves according to what will actually enhance our health?

However, had I done it right from the start, I would not have had the opportunity to entertain you with my umbilical hernia saga.

So, AZ – I hope all this rambling hasn’t put you to sleep or worse, made you worry. But, like everything else, we get through the tough stuff. We change with change – (now isn’t that a revelation!), but things usually work out in the end – often because we don’t have much choice either way. The end just turns out different than we thought it might. For me, that’s what makes for a great story, though…the unexpected endings.

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