Recovery from hernia surgery varies dramatically from one patient to the next. While one patient may have open hernia surgery and have little to no pain afterwards, another patient can have laparoscopic surgery and still develop moderate to severe pain. However, on average, most patients can expect the following for their hernia recovery after hernia surgery.
We also encourage patients to review our post surgery pain management protocol including how to utilize opioid pain medications.
As with any surgery, most patients experience post operative pain in the area of their hernia repair. Most patients will also experience some level of swelling and bruising in the area. We discuss with patients that it is not uncommon to feel occasional pulling, tugging, burning, and other unusual sensations in the area for up to year. These occasional feelings are considered normal after any surgery, including hernia surgery. Each person will recover differently. The most important aspect of recovery is to listen to your individual body: if it hurts – stop, if it’s sore – ice it and take a day off.
Past Patients Discuss Their RecoveryPast patients of Dr. Harris discuss how they’ve felt since their surgery and whether they are back to their normal activities.
Post Surgery CareDr. Harris gives patients a brief overview of what to do (and not to do) after surgery.
Days 1 – 4
- Patients should not plan any significant personal or work related activities during this time period. Only basic daily functions should be performed: walking around the house, visiting the store, and eating at home. Patients should expect to be off from work or school for this time period and should expect to feel moderate pain. Following our pain management protocol will help patients have the best experience after their surgery.
Days 4 – 7
- Most patients will be able to return to work or school by post operative day 4. However, patients are advised to avoid any heavy lifting of greater than 10-20 pounds. Although each patient is different, most should expect to only be at about 50% of normal work or school load during this first week. At home, most patients will be able to resume light activities and at work without any heavy lifting. Patients will experience mild pain, requiring occasional Tylenol & Advil and infrequent opiates. For exercise some light stretching, walking and other slow paced activities can be performed.
- All patients will be able to return to work or school but with lifting limitations of less than 20 pounds. Patients should expect to be about 75% of their normal during this time. For exercise, patients my resume easy walking or leisurely cardiovascular activities and very light weights (less than 20 pounds). Patients will experience occasional discomfort, some stiffness or soreness, which is adequately treated with Tylenol or Advil.
- All patients will be able to return to work or school but with lifting limitations of less than 20 pounds. Again, patients should expect to be about 85% of their normal capacity. Exercise activity can be increased, including light running, cycling, swimming and light weights at the gym (less than 20 pounds). We find that golf, tennis and other sports that require core engagement should still be avoided. Oral pain medicines are not required.
- All patients will be able to return to work or school without lifting limitations. Patients should expect to be about 95% of their normal capacity and quickly be back to 100% within days to weeks. Patients can return to all athletic activities including contact sports, heavy lifting (squats, dead lifts, bench press, etc), as well as training and competitions. Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for patients to feel pulling, tugging, aches, burning, heaviness, swelling, occasional sharp pains, and overall ‘discomfort’ for months after hernia surgery. However, these occasional symptoms should become less and less frequent over time.
The Overall Surgery Experience
Past Patients Discuss Their Hernia Surgery ExperiencePast patients of Dr. Harris discuss their experience having hernia surgery at our center and with our team.
As soon as patients can engage in sexual activities without pain, they can resume those activities. Just as with returning to work and athletic activities, there will be some recovery period before patients feel back to normal. The 50%, 75%, 85%, and 95% rule above for work and school applies to sexual activity.
We not infrequently hear from our patients that their constipation was by far the worst part of their experience having surgery. We strongly recommend patients take preventing and managing constipation seriously.
Oral pain medicines all have the side effect of causing constipation. Many patients who have never taken pain medicines before can be very sensitive to the narcotics in pain pills. Therefore, we strongly recommend that patients have over the counter colace, or other stool softeners available for after the surgery. We recommend patients take these starting the night of surgery and continue until normal bowel function returns.
Hernia Post-Operative Instructions and our Hernia Recovery Chart
We encourage patients to download our ‘Post Operative Hernia Instructions’ and ‘Hernia Recovery Chart’ to learn more about what to expect after hernia surgery: