Will a hernia really stop me running for 9 months?

Q While gardening, I managed to get a hernia in my groin. I’ve been told it could be up to nine months before I can start running again. Will I really be out for this long?

A It’s difficult to say without the opportunity to assess your individual case – but unfortunately it’s certainly possible. There’s a good chance that you have what is commonly known as a ‘sportsman’s hernia’. This is caused by the soft tissue within the groin area herniating through the ligament that usually supports it. This in turn causes sharp, intense pain that limits hip movement, and any activity requiring contraction of the muscles around the abdomen or hip, or that increases the pressure within your abdomen – such as coughing, sneezing or going to the toilet. While gardening, you probably increased pressure in your abdomen by using your abdominal muscles, and this would have been enough to expose the weakened area and cause the hernia.

The first step to recovery is for your physio to design a graduated rehabilitation package. With groin-related injuries, this needs to address the strength of the muscles around the lumbar spine, abdomen and hip (particularly the inner thigh or adductor muscles). With chronic groin injuries, one of the most common treatment techniques is eccentric muscle strengthening and core stability training. You really need to give this between 6-10 weeks to work effectively.

If, after this period, the problem is no better despite following your rehabilitation guidelines, your situation may need reviewing by a surgeon specialising in sports medicine. They will be able to advise you on suitable surgical options, should you require them. Happily, the outcome from groin surgery is generally very favourable, and usually allows a speedy return to activity (particularly if the surgery is ‘keyhole’).

Andrew Caldwell, chartered physiotherapist and sports injury specialist