Can a Hernia Cause Back Pain? A Doctor Weighs In
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Got persistent back pain and wondering if there might be something else behind it?
It's a good idea to start your search because it could be a hernia.
A hernia is typically associated with abdominal discomfort. Although rare, it does have the potential to cause serious back pain too. It can put pressure on nearby nerves, including the ones in your back.
And that can hurt.
This pressure can lead to pain that radiates from the hernia site to your back. Also, hernias mess with the natural balance of muscles and ligaments in your core.
This imbalance can strain your back muscles, causing discomfort and pain.
Let's explore the unexpected evidence on hernias causing back pain, and shed light on the hows and whys that might just leave you amazed.
Behind the Bulge: Understanding How Hernias Cause Back Pain
A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue, resulting in a bulge. Let's start with the difference between the affected regions.
What Part of the Back Can Hernias Affect?
When it comes to hernias, they can actually cause pain in any part of the back .
Upper Back Pain
A hernia in the upper abdominal area can radiate pain to the upper back. The pressure from the hernia can irritate nearby nerves, causing discomfort that extends to this area.
Lower Back Pain
Hernias located in the lower abdomen can also be responsible for lower back pain. The bulging hernia can compress or irritate nerves in the lower back, leading to pain in that area.
Middle Back Pain
While less common, hernias in the mid-abdominal region can also cause pain in the middle back. The protruding hernia can put pressure on nerves or disrupt muscle function, causing discomfort in your middle back.
Can A Hernia Cause Groin Pain?
Yes, it can! Hernias are a common cause of groin pain. When a hernia occurs in the groin area, such as an inguinal hernia, it can cause pain that radiates to the groin.
The bulge from the hernia can put pressure on nerves, leading to groin discomfort and sometimes even swelling.
Can A Hernia Cause Sciatic Nerve Pain?
Believe it or not, hernias can even be linked to sciatic nerve pain.
If a hernia occurs in the lower back, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back down the legs.
This compression can result in sciatic nerve pain, characterized by shooting pain, numbness, or tingling sensations that radiate from the lower back to the legs.
Hernia VS. Herniated Disk
Back pain can be caused by various factors, and two common culprits are hernias and herniated discs. Although they may sound similar, there are big differences between the two.
Understanding these distinctions is crucial for proper diagnosis and targeted treatment. So, let's look at the difference between back pain from a hernia and a herniated disc and the importance of maintaining good desk posture.
Hernia And Herniated Disc: Spotting The Difference
- Location: A hernia typically involves a bulge or protrusion in the abdomen or groin area, whereas a herniated disc occurs when the soft cushion-like disc between the vertebrae in the spine slips out of place or ruptures.
- Cause: Hernias are often caused by a weakness or tear in the abdominal wall, allowing organs or tissues to push through. On the other hand, a herniated disc is typically the result of wear and tear, age-related degeneration, or sudden trauma.
- Symptoms: Back pain caused by a hernia is usually rare and may radiate from the affected area to other parts of the back. A herniated disc is more common. It can cause localised pain, along with symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness that can extend down the arms or legs .
Why Proper Desk Posture Matters For Herniated Disc
Having the proper desk posture matters, but especially if you've got a herniated disk.
In the article linked above you'll find an infographic with tips for sitting right at your desk. If you click it and scroll down a little, you'll find an infographic with diagrams.
Here's a little extra encouragement to look after that back of yours.
Maintaining good desk posture is crucial if you've got a herniated disc. Sitting with proper posture can help alleviate strain on the spine and reduce the pressure on the affected disc.
If you use an ergonomic chair and ensure that your workstation is properly set up can make a significant difference.
Adjust your chair's height, position your monitor at eye level, and support your lower back with a lumbar cushion to promote better posture and minimise discomfort.
Regular Exercise & Movement
Sitting for long periods can make back pain from a herniated disc even worse. Regular breaks to stretch, walk, or perform simple back exercises can help relieve pressure on the disc and improve circulation.
Remember, maintaining good desk posture is not only beneficial for those with a herniated disc but also for preventing back pain and promoting overall spinal health.
Most Common Hernias Involved In Back Pain
In my clinical experience, though rare, certain types of hernias have been associated with excruciating back pain. Let's explore some specific hernia types and their potential connection to back pain.
Femoral hernias develop when a part of the intestine or other tissue pushes through the femoral canal, a small passageway near the groin.
Femoral hernias are less likely to cause back pain. However, in some cases, the hernia may indirectly contribute to discomfort by putting pressure on nerves in the groin or lower abdomen .
Perineal hernias involve organs or tissue protruding through the pelvic floor in the perineal region. Perineal hernias are less likely to cause back pain.
The primary symptoms are usually related to difficulty with bowel movements or urinary issues. However, if the hernia enlarges significantly or causes nerve compression, it may contribute to significant groin and back pain .
Paraesophageal hernias involve the stomach bulging through the diaphragm next to the oesophagus. Paraesophageal hernias are unlikely to cause back pain directly.
That said, if the hernia becomes incarcerated or strangulated, it can lead to severe chest or abdominal pain, which may radiate to the back.
This hernia type can also cause symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn due to the displacement and alteration of the lower oesophageal sphincter LOS function .
Lumbar Triangle Hernia
Lumbar triangle hernias occur when abdominal contents protrude through the lumbar triangle, a small triangular region in the lower back.
While lumbar triangle hernias are rare, they can potentially cause back pain if the hernia bulge compresses or irritates nearby nerves .
Spigelian hernias occur when the intestines push through weakened muscles in the abdominal wall, typically along the edge of the rectus abdominis muscle. Spigelian hernias are rare and typically do not cause back pain.
However, if the hernia becomes large or complicated, it may put pressure on nearby nerves, potentially leading to discomfort in the lower back.
Hiatal hernias occur when a portion of the stomach pushes up into the chest cavity through the diaphragm. Hiatal hernias are not directly associated with back pain.
The main symptoms are usually related to acid reflux or heartburn. However, the presence of a hiatal hernia may contribute to a condition called referred pain, where discomfort from the stomach or oesophagus is felt in the back .
Finding Relief: Effective Methods For Hernia-Related Back Pain
Hernia-related back pain can be a source of discomfort and inconvenience for many people. While seeking medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial, several methods can help alleviate hernia-related back pain. Let's explore some pain relief options:
Rest and Activity Modification
Taking regular breaks, avoiding strenuous activities, and practising proper lifting techniques can help reduce strain on the affected area.
Cold and Heat Therapy
Applying cold packs or ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and numb the pain temporarily. Heat therapy, such as using a heating pad or warm towel, can help relax muscles and improve blood flow, providing relief to the affected area.
Deep Heat (Mentholatum Heat Rub)
Deep Heat Mentholatum, a topical analgesic cream, contains ingredients like menthol and methyl salicylate that creates warmth that can help back pain. It can provide temporary relief by soothing the muscles and numbing the area of application.
However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using any topical creams to ensure they’re appropriate for your specific condition.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help manage mild to moderate pain.
However, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medications, especially if you’ve got a pre-existing medical condition or are taking other medications. Here's more info on various pain killer types for back pain.
Physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the surrounding muscles, improve flexibility, and promote better posture, all of which can alleviate back pain.
Hernia Diagnosis And Treatment: Taking The Right Steps For Relief
Diagnosing and treating hernias are important steps in managing this condition. Let's take a closer look at how hernias are diagnosed and treated, and when it's necessary to see a doctor.
- Physical Examination: A healthcare professional may perform a physical examination to check for the presence of a hernia and determine its location.
- Imaging Tests: In some cases, imaging tests like ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and assess the size and severity of the hernia.
- Watchful Waiting: In some cases, small hernias that are not causing significant symptoms or complications may be monitored without immediate intervention.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Making lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding heavy lifting, and practising proper body mechanics, can help manage symptoms and prevent the hernia from worsening.
- Supportive Measures: Wearing a supportive belt or truss around the affected area may provide temporary relief and support for certain types of hernias.
- Surgical Repair: For larger or symptomatic hernias, surgical intervention may be necessary. The specific surgical approach depends on the type and location of the hernia .
When to See a Doctor
If you notice a bulge or experience persistent pain, discomfort, or other symptoms in the affected area, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation.
Seek immediate medical attention if the hernia becomes incarcerated or strangulated, causing severe pain, nausea, vomiting, or an inability to pass gas or have a bowel movement.
The Bottomline: Expert Opinion
I’ve been treating hernia-related pain in my clinic for many years so I can confidently confirm that hernias can indeed cause back pain.
While not all hernias result in back pain, certain types and circumstances can lead to discomfort in the back region. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:
- Hernia Types And Severity: Different types of hernias, such as hiatal and para-oesophageal hernias, can be linked to back pain. The likelihood of back pain can vary depending on the specific hernia type and severity, as we discussed above.
- Underlying Mechanisms: Hernias can exert pressure on surrounding tissues, including nerves, muscles, and ligaments, leading to back pain. Additionally, the strain and stress placed on the back during activities or movements can exacerbate the pain.
- Seek Professional Evaluation: If you suspect that your back pain is related to a hernia, it’s necessary to consult with a healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough examination, order diagnostic tests if necessary, and provide you with appropriate guidance and treatment options.
Remember, every individual and case is unique. So, it’s crucial to seek personalised medical advice to determine the precise cause of your back pain and the most suitable treatment approach.
1. Healthline. How a Hernia Can Cause Back Pain. https://www.healthline.com/health/can-a-hernia-cause-back-pain
2. The Spine & Rehab Group. Can a Hernia Cause Back Pain? https://www.thespineandrehabgroup.com/can-a-hernia-cause-back-pain
3. South Lake General Surgery. Can a Hernia Trigger Back Pain? https://www.southlakegeneralsurgery.com/can-a-hernia-trigger-back-pain/
4. Dr. Stefano Sinicropi, M.D. Hernias & Low Back Pain. https://sinicropispine.com/hernias-low-back-pain/