A hernia most commonly affects the abdomen and groin, and occurs where tissue or an organ protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal wall surrounding it. There are many different types of hernia, and the type depends on where the hernia occurs.
Hernias are caused by a number of things, and can occur as a result of a combination of factors. Some people are physiologically more likely to suffer a hernia than others, particularly smokers and those who are overweight, but a person’s age and general posture will be a factor too.
What can cause a hernia?
Non-physiological causes of hernia can include:
- lifting, pushing or pulling heavy objects at work
- using an improper technique when lifting or otherwise working with heavy objects
- sharp blows or trauma to the abdomen or back
- performing any activity which places additional stress or pressure on the abdomen or lower back.
If your hernia has been caused while working with heavy objects, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers are required to manage and minimise the risks to their employees when engaged in manual handling. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR) require employers to:
- avoid hazardous manual handling operations so far is reasonably practicable, which may Include changing the way the task is carried out to avoid moving the heavy load at all or by automating the process
- assess the risk of injury from any manual handling operations that cannot be avoided
- reduce the risk of injury from the manual handling operations as much as practicable, such as by providing mechanical assistance
An employer should also provide you with proper training on how to lift, move or otherwise handle heavy objects.
Types of hernia
There are many different hernia types including:
An inguinal hernia is the most common type of abdominal hernia and it is predominantly found in men. It occurs where a part of the small intestine bulges into the inguinal canal of the groin. In men, this can end up pushing down into the scrotum.
Although much rarer than the inguinal hernia, the femoral hernia overwhelmingly occurs in women, and occurs when abdominal organs push down through a weakness at the top of the femoral canal and bulge out through the upper thigh, just below the groin.
A diaphragmatic hernia is where the upper part of the stomach pushes up into the chest cavity through a weakness in the diaphragm (the muscle which separates the chest from the abdomen).
This is a form of the diaphragmatic hernia, wherein the upper part of the stomach periodically pushes up into the chest by passing through the oesophagus.
Incisional hernias occur at the site of previous incisions into the abdomen, usually through surgery, which have not completely healed.
Umbilical hernias occur where there is a weakness in the abdominal wall behind the belly button, causing the naval to bulge outwards.
Symptoms of a hernia
The symptoms of a hernia vary depending on where and what type of hernia it is, and some symptoms may not be present at all. The most common symptoms are a lump or bulge at the site of the hernia, which may come and go depending on whether you are standing, bending or lying down. Sometimes, the bulge can be pushed back in, only to reappear later if you cough or sneeze. You may experience pain, either generally or when applying pressure to the affected area, and the area may be red and inflamed.
In more serious cases, the part of the organ that has pushed through the wall surrounding it can become “strangled”, causing a loss of blood supply to the organ. Such hernias are always painful. In addition, the intestine can become distorted, somewhat like the kink in a garden hose, leading to the bowel being obstructed. If this occurs, you may experience nausea, vomiting and/or fever, and be unable to pass gas or have a bowel movement. The hernia will likely turn red or purple. Strangulated hernias, as they are known, can be life threatening and it is important that you seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing any of the related symptoms.
Hernias can also occur in the lower back, and in the individual discs that form your spine. A herniated disc occurs where the gel-like substance that is at the centre of the disc breaks through the disc wall. This may cause a dull or sharp pain, muscle spasms or weakness in the legs. In rare cases, a person loses control of their bowel or bladder function, something which requires immediate medical attention.
A herniated disc is also a common cause of sciatica. This is where the herniated disc presses on the sciatic nerve within the spine, frequently resulting in pain, a tingling sensation and/or numbness that can go from the back of the pelvis, through the buttock into the leg and sometimes into the foot. It is usual for only the left or right leg to be affected, rather than both. The intensity of the pain can vary, but may be made worse by sneezing, coughing, sitting for long periods or bending.
Affect of a hernia
A hernia may prevent you from carrying out your normal work duties, particularly if you do engage in a lot of manual handling activity. Hernias are usually treated and repaired through surgery and patients discharged the same day, with recovery times varying from a few days to a few weeks, though pain may continue a little longer. For those with active and physically demanding jobs however, it may take much longer to return to your full duties and you may suffer a loss of income as a result.
If you, a family member or a friend has suffered a hernia injury as a result of heavy lifting at work, or otherwise through someone else’s negligence, our specialist team of Personal Injury (PI) solicitors will be able to advise you on the merits of making a claim.
If you would like to make a claim hernia injury compensation claim please speak to a member of our Personal Injury (PI) team on Freephone: 0808 164 0808 for a FREE, no-obligation chat. Alternatively, please complete the request a call back form and we will call you.