Bodyworks: Muscle Hernia

How to recognise it, how to overcome it

by Patrick Milroy

This condition comes about in the lower leg when a sheath containing a muscle bursts and allows the muscle to bulge out.

There will be swelling over an area of muscle, often with a reduction in pain of the compartment that has been under pressure.

Signs and alternative diagnoses
Your doctor will see and feel the same enlargement that you do, and will want to rule out infections, tumours, foreign bodies and other causes of unexpected bumps.

Medical investigations
These will only be used to eliminate the alternative causes.

You probably need to do very little, unless RICE is needed to ease local discomfort.

Medical treatment
Unless you wish to pay a large sum of money, the doctor will be unwilling to treat a defect which is purely cosmetic, and risk causing a compartment syndrome.

Can you run through it?/Recovery time
It is unlikely that you’ll need to have much time off, if any, and the permanent swelling will probably become just another object of mirth at the club!

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Discuss this article

Today I was diagnosed as having a small inguinal hernia. I have been used to running 40-50 miles per week including some hard sessions and racing every other month or so.

It appears that the surgeons may be reluctant to operate as the hernia is relatively small.

So I fear that my running will be impeded in that I have this slightly painful bulge which could pop out further any time!

I'm sure I'm not the first person to be in this situation so any guidance at all would be appreciated.


Posted: 18/10/2002 at 17:31

Yo Hill-Reps
I presume that your GP diagnosed your hernia?
I am 99.99% that when you see the surgeon he will operate. Unless you really do not want surgery or you are at extremely high risk of a medical complication due to the anaesthetic (which I'm sure you are not because you run 40-50) miles per week.

It is affecting your quality of life and is likely to have a detremental effect on your health by stoping you training and possible complications in the future.

A small hernia op is very routine and occurs thosands of times a year in the NHS...don't worry
Posted: 18/10/2002 at 18:31

Thanks BBB.

Seeing the surgeon 29/10 so will tell him to sharpen the knife!

Posted: 21/10/2002 at 09:32

Good luck!

Posted: 21/10/2002 at 15:30

I've got one too, Hill-Reps. It doesn't bother me - it's not painful and only pops out when I've been on my feet for a while - but it's not going to go away by itself. Like BBB, I can't imagine a surgeon deciding NOT to operate on one of these beasties. Still haven't got round to contacting my favourite hernia-repair man for advice about timing the operation to minimise disruption to running and, of course, work, but I'll be asking for a keyhole operation, after which it's apparently possible to be back at even heavy manual work in a month so I'd hope to return to normal training by then.
Posted: 21/10/2002 at 16:07

Thanks V-Rap, very helpful.

Saw many of your communications leading up to this years FLM! What time did you get? I did 3:30 which I was very happy with as it was my first time...

Posted: 21/10/2002 at 16:10

Brilliant time, Hill-Reps. I did 5:56, which was acceptable since I'd been out of training due to injury for over two months beforehand, had never done a run of more than 13 miles, and was still carrying said injury.
Posted: 21/10/2002 at 16:16

Nice one V-Rap!

Got the appointment with the specialist next Tues so fingers and toes crossed!


Posted: 21/10/2002 at 16:19

All that digit-crossing might be what caused your hernia!
Posted: 21/10/2002 at 18:28

Had a double hernia op 6 weeks ago and just started cross training and swimming.
I was in pain for the first week but it was worth it
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 09:10

Six weeks, Tony? Yikes! I think I'll just keep my hernia until something else happens to make me stop running. On the other hand, what a good excuse for skulking in the pool and toddling at ambulatory pace on the machines in the gym instead of gritting my teeth and going out in the rain.

Wonder if I could swing six weeks off work postoperatively? Then if I have the op done immediately after the Cheddar half-marathon I'll be off work over the Christmas period and just about fit to have a pop (as long as my other side DOESN'T pop) at Helsby in January.

Bah! One of the worst things about working with docs is that there's not blinding them with medical science. Maybe if I pretend I'm going for a laparoscopic sterilisation they'll be so relieved to be rid of the maternity leave timebomb that they'll overlook the lo-o-o-o-ong convalescence.

Gotta do it. Definitely phoning the man today. Hope he's willing to be accommodating over dates.
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 09:25

6 weeks....!!!!

I have withdraw symptoms when I have just 3 days off running!!!!

Just joined a good running club too and am supposed to be slashing my PB in the Stroud Half Marathon on Sunday. Not in any kind of pain or discomfort when running, so do you think it is safe for me to race at this stage? Hernia only occurred in the last week and comparatively small.
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 09:30

From the hernia point of view, I'm sure it's entirely safe to race, Hill-Reps. You're not going to make it worse by running, and if it's going to come out and get stuck (which is the only serious hazard associated with inguinal hernias) it will do that whether you're running or not. Much less risky than running with a niggly ITB or even a painful blister.

I'm still doing weighted squats and overhead presses despite the little squidgy bulge. Just phoned the surgeon - he's out of the hospital all day today. Reprieve!

Like you, I get twitchy after a lot less than six weeks without any running, but a good morphine-related painkiller might be an adequate substitute in the first few days.

Posted: 22/10/2002 at 09:50

Thanks V-Rap. That confirms my understanding too.

Posted: 22/10/2002 at 09:53

Just remeber after the op, that although it may be very tempting to return to full fitness in record time, the old addage goes....'the longer you rest it, the less likely it is to come back'!
You have been warned!
Good luck
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 09:57

So, like, if I NEVER do any exercise ever again, I will maximise my chances of it never coming back?

Hmmm. I think I'll take my chances. You get twice as much time off work with a repeat hernia repair.

Agree entirely with the "don't try to be superhuman" philosphy - intellectually, that is. Problem is, I just KNOW I will be at my desk and trying not to limp noticeably 24 hours postoperatively because that's how I was brought up.
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 10:05

Plus in the past you have probablly labelled the odd person as a 'wimp' when they are still hobling around after 6 weeks. I know I have and thats the last thing I would want to be because I'm HARD me (honest)and I think if I was in your situation I'd do the same!
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 10:48

Six weeks? I have known people try to get six MONTHS off after an uncomplicated hernia repair, or to ask for a sick note to cover the time between first noticing the hernia and having the operation ("but I sometimes have to do lifting at work, doc, and you can't be too careful...").

Getting daggers stared at me every time I go into the waiting room today by one such individual, though the reason for the daggers isn't her nine months off after a hysterectomy but my refusal to conceal the fact (and all her other sick leave from the multitude of jobs she hasn't been able to hold down for long) on a subsequent income replacement insurance application form.
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 11:20

You certainly live up to your name!
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 11:37

I'm a cute and harmless little house-lizard really, but don't tell anyone.
Posted: 22/10/2002 at 11:47

Just a late update to this thread for anyone, like me, just finding it because they've got a hernia op. coming up.

I've just had my double inguinal hernia repair (keyhole). The advice I was given was that I could begin "gentle athletic exercise" after just 10 to 14 days. My surgeon also told me that one of his patients ran the London marathon just 5 weeks after a bilateral inguinal hernia repair.

When it came down to it I didn't really feel up to running until now (4 weeks), but your recovery time may be much shorter, especially if having only one hernia repaired. (Plus which, I wasn't a serious runner to begin with.)

Hope that's helpful.
Posted: 30/07/2004 at 08:55

Just been diagnosed with small hernia. Doctor thinks it's ok to keep running if it doesn't hurt (I want to do a half marathon in 4 weeks)until the operation, which could be 3 or 4 months away. Does anyone know if running could make it worse? Should I avoid any hills?
Posted: 05/08/2004 at 09:25

I was diagnosed as having a small hernia in the groin a couple of months ago. I was referred to a specialist who informed me that the condition would only get worse if not treated although I was still able to run and do gym work. I went through an operation two days ago and the specialist is confident that I will be able to start training again in a couple of weeks albeit gentley and after four weeks I can resume high intensity training.
Posted: 20/05/2007 at 10:56

Hi Nigel..

I had the same thing..had the operation 3 weeks ago tomorrow. I was signed off work for two weeks and was still very swollen after this time...though or even trying to jog was not good! The doctor has signed me off for another two weeks. I want to the gym this morning and walked on the treadmill for 30 mins at 6km per hour..and then jogged at 7.5km per hour the last 400 get me to three km's! The swelling is still there and still very tender. Im looking around for 10kms to do in the next month or so...and hopefully get back to a half marathon after me hols in July.
I hope your feeling ok...after only two days I was in a lot of pain...taking me 8 mins to get downstairs!! Did you have keyhole surgery..or the big cut...?? I have a lovely 5 inch cut in my groin now! That makes a difference to the return time.
Posted: 20/05/2007 at 15:32

I had a similar problem.

 I found these websites particularly useful:[b]Hernia[/b]

 I hope this helps.


Posted: 15/10/2009 at 00:44

I have had a hernia since march and have done 6 half marathons, and many shorter races with no problem, I would say stop if it hurts, but it will have to be done sometime so pick a time which fits in with you. 
Posted: 16/10/2009 at 20:13

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