Medical Questions > Conditions and Diseases > Hernia Forum

Practical tips for hernia recovery

I'm about nine days after surgery and am doing very nicely. However, I have found the post-surgery recovery information to be woefully inadequate, both online and in the booklet that my surgeon gave me, so I thought I would post some tips here. My surgeon and his office have been great, and while he was willing to answer all my questions, I didn't know what to ask as a first-timer. Here are my thoughts:
1. Don't be afraid to contact your surgeon's office to ask questions. Mine has a nurse who is very helpful with recovery questions.
2. With the swelling that will ensue, make sure you have a decent supply of garments with expandable waistbands. I was sure glad I didn't throw away my old khakis with the elastic on the side in addition to belt loops. If you need to get back to the office fairly quickly, it's hard to show up in gym shorts and a T-shirt. And after nine days, I still can't wear my jeans yet.
3. Be prepared to have your sleep interrupted. For the first few days, I found it helpful to take pain meds before bedtime and then sleep in a recliner. I still had to get up at 3am to urinate (I've had the typical frequent urination as well), but it's sure easier to get out of a recliner than out of bed. And you don't wake up the wife when you do so. As the incision pain has subsided, I'm now back in bed and getting back to a somewhat regular sleep routine. However, if you have a low bed (mine is pretty high), it may take longer.
4. My pain meds (oxycodone/acetominophen) made me drowsy, but did not resolve the burning pain and pulling around the incision in the first few days. You may want to talk to your surgeon about the kind of meds you'll be getting.
5. I was allowed to shower three days after surgery and I found it very helpful to have one of the hand-held shower devices. If you don't have one, get one before your surgery. They're very cheap in places like Home Depot.
6. Move around as much as you can because it's said to aid healing. Don't sit in that recliner all day.
7. Eat modest amounts of food and avoid the temptation to snack while you're recovering at home. You don't want all that swelling in your lower abdomen to be replaced by fat.
8. Don't become overconfident. After my pain subsided, I thought it was OK to lift a partially filled paint can or a few light groceries -- or even mash some potatoes in a bowl. It's not. Even light lifting can bring some pain back. Confine your activities to walking, not lifting. And take those stairs one step at a time if you need to.
9. You won't be able to bend down, so be prepared not to pick up your things from the floor. Take care of personal hygiene issues -- i.e., cutting toenails -- before surgery, because you won't be able to do it for a while afterward.
10. If you're prone to back pain or back issues, the early recovery period may make things worse since it's hard to stretch and stand in your normal positions that may help your back. After a week or so, I've found it easier to stretch and things are returning to normal.
11. Be prepared not to cough, sneeze or laugh. It hurts in the first week. I pity the person who has hernia surgery and then develops a hacking cough the week afterward.
12. Take the doctor's advice and use stool softener a few days before and after surgery. This will help you not to push when a bowel movement is imminent. And on this subject, it may be helpful for some people to have a grab bar or similar device at the toilet to help them up and down.
13. When you're sufficiently off the pain meds and are ready to resume driving, be aware that rough roads can make you very uncomfortable. I would also not consider taking a long road trip -- where you have to sit upright and confined for a few hours -- for at least the first couple weeks.

I'm not a doctor, but I hope this is all helpful. I feel very lucky that my recovery is going so well.
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First Helper herniali

replied May 24th, 2012
As I am on my first full day of recovery I would say this is spot on. The percocet also makes me drowsy rather than pain free, so I switched to Aleve. I am in a lot less pain than last night when I came home from the hospital. How have you been with nerves? I was so scared to get this done because I read people had burning nerve pain, so far I feel none of that, just quite sore around the incision.
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replied May 25th, 2012
Experienced User
While I would agree with most of the suggestions given in the above list, the biggest hernia recovery tip I can give is:


Most doctors favor the conservative time of one month with no lifting of anything over 5 lbs; yet I always read about the 'macho' guys that are out shoveling snow a week after their surgery only to come here and boo-hoo around about how they are in so much pain and must have it redone because they ripped it open.

An upfront surgeon will tell you that it may take anywhere from 6-12 months for you to feel "completely" healed. In the meantime, learn to have some restraint in doing strenuous tasks and activities. Bending over and picking up your 3-year old may not be the best thing to do the first few months after a hernia surgery. Think about it...
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replied July 16th, 2012
I just had hernia surgery two days ago and am a bit surprised by all the scare-mongering I have seen on-line. I have had minimal pain in the incision area. I have been taking three or four pain-killers a day, which I am sure is helping a lot. I also have been trying to do modest walks each day and to stay upbeat.

My advice is to take it easy, which can be hard for those of us used to working out and being very active. This is especially important the first day when you are groggy and the anasthetic is wearing off. One does not want to risk ripping open the incision or having to endure the surgery again! Also, eating fibre-rich food and dried fruit helps loosen the bowels, so that you stay regular and don't put pressure on the wound.

But all in all, my surgery has been so much less traumatic than I anticipated. Keep in mind that many people who report online tend to be the ones with problems. Stay positive and recovery will go well!
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replied June 18th, 2017
I am a week out of open abdominal hernia repair and, while I was on pain-killers, I felt the same as you. The result was that I overdid what I felt were light activities and strained my incision.
The surgery is not bad but do take the advice about not bending, not hunching over the computer, not driving and not lifting anything heavier than a mug of tea, until your scar has healed and the stitches dissolved - which will be about 10 days. Only then begin to increase your work rate, gently.
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replied November 27th, 2017
Hello everyone I am planning hernia surgery soon any advise about what to eat post surgery? I was thinking about salad bowls with small pieces of chicken..ramen soup and plenty of milk of magnesia to make it easier...please any advice will be appreciated and thanks for posting your does help
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