Hernias can be painful and scary, often at the same time.
The problem seems to be more common among men than women. At least 25% of males and 2% of females develop a hernia at some point in their lives.
Hernia surgeries are also the most common type of surgeries done.
But do bodybuilders get hernias? The short answer is – yes, they do.
Strenuous activities such as bodybuilding can lead to hernias in the umbilical, groin, or other centers of the body.
In this piece, we try to understand what exactly a hernia is, the different types of hernias, the causes, and how it intersects with the world of bodybuilding.
What Is A Hernia?
Let us try to understand how our body is arranged from the inside. We have organs in the innermost region. The organs are usually protected by some kind of sheath or muscles.
For example, our guts are directly protected by the abdominal wall. As time goes on, it is possible that certain parts of this wall will become weak.
When enough wear has gone into it, the wall can actually break open. This causes the organs, in this case, the guts to be pushed out. This situation is termed as a hernia.
One can imagine how this might connect to the sport of bodybuilding. Regularly engaging in strenuous work and physical activity might result in damage to the walls which can lead to hernia. More on this later.
Symptoms Of A Hernia
- The most common symptom of hernia is an abnormal or sudden bulge in the groin or other areas of the body
- Pain is a common symptom
- Aching sensation during lifting heavy objects or physically strenuous activity
Types of Hernias
There are many different types of hernias. Following are some types that are relevant to bodybuilding:
- Inguinal Hernia: this type of hernia is fairly common. It is one of the most common types of hernia incurred during sports training or similar activities. When any of the organs of the abdomen (most commonly the guts) protrude out through the abdomen, it is known as inguinal hernia. It derives its name from the inguinal canal that gets worn off and lets the protruding organ pass through.
- Femoral Hernia: Similar to inguinal hernia, when an organ or tissue pushes out through the femoral canal, the condition is termed as femoral hernia. Femoral hernia is not that common, but one should still be wary of it, especially because it causes the least amount of pain and may go unnoticed for a lengthy period of time.
- Incisional Hernia: This is another common type of hernia. Oftentimes after a surgery, the sutures weaken upon strength activity. This may be because the sutures were weak, experienced tears or something else. The end result doesn’t look so pretty, the inner organs protrude out.
Causes of Hernia
Now that we understand what hernia is, what the symptoms of hernia are, and the different types in which it can manifest itself, we are many steps closer to answering our original question – do bodybuilders get hernias? To continue the discussion, let us look at the different possible causes of hernia. These will help us better understand if bodybuilding can cause hernia or not.
- In some cases, hernia can be congenital, i.e., it may be present from birth.
- Aging is also considered a cause of hernia. As we grow older, our muscles start to give out more and more and in some cases can ultimately break down, leading to hernia.
- An accident or any other kind of damage can lead to many different types of hernia.
- Constipation has also been noted to be a cause of hernia. While it is not anywhere close to being the most common cause, there have been cases.
- Strenuous exercise, lifting heavyweights, long training sessions, and similar activities can lead to hernias. It is a common cause of hernias.
Getting Hernias Due to Bodybuilding
We have by now established that hernias can be caused due to strenuous exercises. Hernias are a very real problem that pretty much every serious bodybuilder has to work around at some point. The sport of bodybuilding is all about sculpting the perfect looking body. Bodybuilders often focus on bilateral symmetry, prominent muscles and a shredded look.
Exercises often include rapid weightlifting and focussing specifically on select muscles. Such activities increase the chances of the weaker spots in the body to tear up, thus leading to a hernia. Heavy lifting can not only cause back problems but also lead to hernia.
In case of bodybuilding, what happens is that with time, as regular training goes on, the abdominal muscles weaken. This does not happen at once. The damage accumulates over a relatively longer period of time.
Eventually the muscles simply can not withstand the strain and fall apart. Studies have shown that indeed, regular bodybuilding can be a common cause of hernia.
How To Prevent Hernias When Bodybuilding
There are some simple yet effective ways to avoid hernia when bodybuilding:
- The number one way to prevent hernias is to take it slow. We don’t mean keeping the pace slow, but keep your muscular atrophy at a slow pace. What this means is that you don’t suddenly start lifting double the amount you were yesterday. Growth comes gradually and doing so will also help prevent hernia.
- Stretching and warming up appropriately also helps. Stretching can help the fascia enveloping your muscles loosen up. Warm up helps raise the muscle temperature so they are working at maximum output during the workout.
- Using a hernia belt is also a great way of preventing hernias. Deadlifters and heavy lifters use such belts to reduce the chances of any hernia.
- Including extra fiber in your diet can also help prevent hernias. It helps prevent constipation so you don’t have to exert any extra pressure on the abdominal walls.
We have to remember that males are more likely to get hernias.
We discussed ways of preventing hernia which one should keep in mind.
Sports that require strenuous activity on the regular, including bodybuilding certainly do lead to hernias. As a result, bodybuilders do get hernias frequently. However, with safe practices and by following simple rules, the condition can be totally prevented altogether.