Recovery After Hernia Repair: What to Expect

  • man with umbilical hernia
    Know what to expect and take the surprise out of the recovery process.
    The extent of your surgery and how long it takes for you to recover will depend on the size and location of your hernia. You will likely go home the same day, but sometimes people need to stay in the hospital. Recovery from hernia surgery also depends on the type and size of hernia. Take a look at what’s ahead for you and what you can do to make your recovery go as smoothly as possible.

  • Male doctor with male patient with hand on shoulder
    Recovery from minimally invasive surgery is often quicker than open surgery.
    Your goal during recovery is to manage your pain, ensure wound healing, and regain abdominal muscle strength. This can take time, even with minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery. In fact, it may take a week or more to feel like yourself again. Still, people tend to recover quicker and return to work sooner after laparoscopic hernia repair compared to open surgery. Talk to your doctor from the beginning about the best strategies to reach your recovery goals and what you can expect with your surgery.

  • pills, medication
    Controlling your pain will help you rest and regain your strength.
    Pain is common for several days following any hernia surgery. Pain tends to resolve more quickly after laparoscopic procedures. Controlling pain is important because it helps you rest, recover, and increase your activities. So you will likely go home on a narcotic pain reliever. Ask your doctor before taking other pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). It’s easier to keep pain from getting worse than it is to reduce it once it’s bad. Take your pain meds on schedule so that the pain doesn’t get out of hand.

  • Male Walking in Sneakers
    Returning to normal activities can take several days to weeks.
    The specific timeline depends on your type of hernia surgery. In most cases, doctors encourage walking for short periods during the first two weeks. Gradually, you’ll add activities and intensity. Follow all instructions for avoiding straining, supporting your abdominal muscles, and lifting things. Doing too much too fast can cause problems. Ask your doctor when it’s safe to return to daily activities, driving, work, sex, and sports or other leisure activities.

  • Taking a shower
    Wound healing after hernia surgery takes about two weeks.
    Follow all instructions for covering and dressing the wound, keeping it dry, and showering. Avoid bathtubs, pools, or soaking the wound until your doctor clears it. If you have tape strips on your wound, they will generally fall off by themselves. Your doctor will need to remove stitches or staples if you have them. Be sure to call your doctor if your wound is red, swollen, warm, draining excess fluid, bleeding, or starting to open.

  • oatmeal and blueberries
    Avoiding constipation and straining will help with wound healing.
    Your diet after hernia surgery can help you avoid constipation and straining. Pain medicines and recovering from surgery can contribute to problems having a bowel movement. It’s important for wound healing to avoid straining while having a bowel movement. Follow your doctor’s instructions for increasing fiber and drinking plenty of fluids. Your doctor may also recommend a stool softener to help you avoid straining.

  • dialing-phone
    Be aware of possible complications.
    Call your doctor right away if you have fever, worsening pain, or no bowel movement for three days after surgery. These could be signs of a complication. Other warning signs include a new bulge at the site, trouble passing urine, bloating or belly swelling, and swelling of a testicle. Call your doctor or seek medical attention if you experience any of these problems. Ask your care team (before you leave the hospital) under what conditions should you call 911.

  • Fitness Trainer Helping Senior Man Workout
    You may need physical therapy to fully recover.
    It can be challenging to recover from abdominal surgery and regain muscle strength. But it’s vital to strengthen your core and abdominal muscles to help prevent another hernia. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you safely reach this recovery goal. These strengthening exercises can be painful at first. Talk with your doctor or therapist about managing the pain so you can reach your recovery goals.

  • Happy couple
    Lifestyle changes can help you prevent another hernia.
    An ideal hernia surgery recovery is one that returns you to your active life without pain or other symptoms. Remember that hernia surgery won’t prevent another hernia. You can do your part to help prevent future hernias. Staying in good physical condition, maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening core (abdominal) muscles, and avoiding straining are all prevention strategies. Your doctor will check your progress as you heal. Follow your doctor’s recommendations, and be sure to call your doctor with any concerns.

Recovery After Hernia Repair: What to Expect

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 

  1. Groin Hernia Inguinal and Femoral Repair. American College of Surgeons.

  2. Hernia Repair Discharge Instructions. Medical University of South Carolina.

  3. Home Care after Laparoscopic Hernia Repair. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority.

  4. Inguinal Hernia. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 31
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