When you’re diagnosed with a hernia, you have two options: get surgery to repair the hernia or wait and watch for signs that it’s getting worse. Invasive surgery isn’t a choice most people take lightly. At New Choice Health, we want to help patients make an informed decision about whether hernia repair surgery is right for them. So, in that spirit, we’ll use this blog to answer one of the top questions we see about this procedure (other than how much it will cost):
How painful is hernia surgery and recovery?
Like with any invasive surgery, you’ll need time for rest and recovery after a hernia repair. In the first day or two after your surgery, you may feel mild to moderate pain at your incision site(s). You may also feel extra tired as your body starts the recovery process. This phase is usually short, and most people feel much better within a few days to a week after their hernia repair.
If you were dealing with pain and pressure from your hernia before surgery, you might notice some almost-immediate relief from that discomfort (even if your incisions are a little sore).
Hernias don’t typically go away on their own. Without treatment, they can cause pain, pressure, and bulging in the affected area—often the groin or abdomen. You’ll probably notice this discomfort most when lifting weights, coughing, or bending over. Over time, hernias can get bigger and lead to rare but life-threatening complications.
After your hernia surgery diagnosis, your healthcare provider can talk you through your options. They may help you choose between surgery and watchful waiting, but the decision is ultimately up to you.
Is hernia surgery major surgery?
Hernia surgery is usually considered major surgery. It involves cutting into the body and altering the anatomy to push back the protruding tissue and repair the hole in the muscle wall. As with any invasive surgery, hernia repair—with or without mesh—comes with a slight risk of complications. The most common include pain, infection, scar tissue adhesion, bowel blockage, and hernia recurrence.
There are two types of hernia surgery: open and laparoscopic. Open hernia surgery is a bigger operation than laparoscopic. It involves a single large incision and is often associated with longer recovery times. Laparoscopic hernia surgery involves a few small incisions, which may heal faster and cause less pain and numbness than a single large incision.
No matter which type of surgery you get, you’ll be under general anesthesia and asleep the whole time. So, you won’t feel any pain at all during your procedure.
How long will I have pain after hernia surgery?
Pain is subjective, and everybody’s hernia repair recovery experience is different. However, the worst pain should go away within a few days. Despite some pain, most patients are able to walk on their own the same day as the surgery. Many also feel well enough to go back to work (depending on the nature of the job) as soon as three days after the procedure.
As you recover, you’ll feel some soreness and discomfort while your incisions heal. You may also notice some bruising or pulling around the incision site. Your medical team will prescribe pain medications to help minimize your postoperative pain. Their recommendations may include some combination of Tylenol, Advil, and narcotic pain medications.
- If you have open hernia repair surgery, the pain will be mainly in the area around your incision, and you’ll notice it lessening gradually in the few weeks that follow your procedure. By weeks 4 to 6, you should feel mostly back to normal.
- If you have laparoscopic hernia repair surgery, you may feel a cramp-like pain spread out over your entire abdomen in the day or two after your procedure. This pain should go away quickly, though. Then, it can take around 1 to 2 weeks for your incisions to heal fully.
Patient experiences with pain after hernia surgery
At New Choice Health, we’ve spoken to many patients who were surprised to find their pain after hernia repair surgery was significantly less than they expected:
David S. had put up with his hernia for over 20 years before getting it repaired. “I remember nothing of the surgery itself since I was under general anesthesia, but I woke up soon after, feeling great,” he recalls. As his wife drove them the seven-hour trip home, he remembers feeling relatively pain-free, partly thanks to the pain medication prescribed by his medical team. The couple even stopped on the way home to visit one of their daughters!
He continues, “Before I knew it, I was home and sleeping in my own bed, all repaired up. The first few days afterward were the hardest, and I laid around the house a lot. But then I went back to my little sawmill and resumed work (leaving the heavy lifting to my employees). Now, six weeks have passed. I feel great and am lifting again—carefully, of course.”
Here’s another story from Jason T., who had hernia repair surgery in 2019:
Back in December 2018, I was looking for an option to repair my inguinal hernia. I didn’t have health insurance and was on a budget, so my choices were limited. I’d had the hernia for over six months, and it was affecting my daily life as well as my job. I needed to have it taken care of.
Now, it’s been almost two months since my surgery, and I haven’t felt this good in years. I’m back to walking 6 miles a day and I have more energy than I’ve had in a long time. I never realized my hernia was causing me that many problems! After having it repaired, I feel so much more energetic, and I can do a lot more than I could before. It’s like a whole new me.
A few more words from our Patient Assist hernia repair surgery patients
“I am feeling very good, no complications at all, thanks to a good team of doctors and nurses. I am attaching a picture of me and my wife, a day after the surgery, walking and collecting flowers around the hotel.”– Misael G.
“My surgery went very well, and I returned to work five days later. I give all the credit to the surgeon, who helped me with a fast recovery!”– Carlene D.
“[My husband] Jim did so well that he actually went to Target (to pick up a few things) the evening of his surgery. LOL.”– Kim C., wife of the patient
Is hernia surgery worth the pain?
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether the recovery from hernia repair surgery is worth the relief from the pain, discomfort, and other symptoms your hernia is causing you. If you decide to wait, you’ll need to have your hernia checked regularly to monitor for any signs that it’s getting worse. (Since it won’t go away on its own.) Most people have quick, uneventful recoveries after hernia repair, a small number may experience complications or longer recovery times.
If you’re ready to start exploring your hernia repair options, head over to our post on hernia repair cost averages across the U.S. There, you’ll find how much hernia repair can cost with and without insurance, depending on where you have the procedure. You can also visit our homepage to find price estimates in your city and request a personalized quote.