A hernia occurs when tissue or an organ pushes through a weak spot in the muscle or connective tissue around it. While hernias commonly affect the abdomen and groin area, certain types can also cause back pain.

Although hernias sometimes cause back pain, not all hernias necessarily result in back pain.

The specific relationship between a hernia and back pain can vary depending on the type of hernia and individual circumstances.

This article looks at when hernias may cause back pain.

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In some cases, a hernia can compress or irritate nerves in the surrounding area, leading to back pain.

This is particularly relevant in hernias that involve the spinal column or nerves in the spine, such as a herniated disk.

The herniated disk material can put pressure on spinal nerves, resulting in back pain that may radiate down the legs, known as sciatica.

Spinal hernia and abdominal hernia are two distinct conditions affecting different body areas.

Spinal hernia

Also known as a herniated disk or slipped disk, this is a condition where one of the disks between the vertebrae in the spine bulges or ruptures out of its normal position.

It can occur in the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), or lumbar (lower back) regions of the spine.

When a herniated disk presses against nearby nerves, it can cause symptoms such as localized or radiating pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the back, neck, or extremities.

Spinal hernias typically relate to spinal degeneration, trauma, or excessive strain on the spine.

Lumbar triangle hernia

The term “lumbar triangle hernia” typically refers to an uncommon abdominal hernia known as a superior lumbar triangle hernia, Grynfeltt-Lesshaft hernia, or Petit hernia.

It occurs in the superior lumbar triangle of the lower back, which is a small anatomical space that various muscles and fascia surround.

Some of the symptoms of a lumbar triangle hernia are a noticeable bulge or swelling in the lower back, pain or discomfort at the hernia site. Occasionally, they include symptoms of bowel obstruction if the hernia entraps or obstructs the intestines.

Due to their rarity and location, lumbar triangle hernias can be challenging to diagnose accurately. Imaging tests such as ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scans may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

For people who think they may have a lumbar triangle hernia or are experiencing symptoms in the lower back, it is important to seek medical attention for an evaluation and appropriate management.

Can an abdominal hernia cause back pain?

An abdominal hernia occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through a weak area or opening in the abdominal wall muscles. They generally do not cause back pain.

The most common types of abdominal hernias include inguinal hernias (in the groin area), incisional hernias (at the site of a previous surgical incision), and umbilical hernias (around the belly button).

Abdominal hernias usually present as a visible bulge or swelling in the affected area, and they can cause discomfort, pain, or a dragging sensation.

However, the pain resulting from abdominal hernias is typically localized to the hernia site and may not directly affect the back.

There are several ways to relieve the back pain resulting from a hernia. They include:

  • Rest and activity modification: People should avoid activities or movements that worsen the pain, particularly those involving heavy lifting, bending, or twisting. Resting and modifying daily activities can help reduce strain on the affected area and provide some relief.
  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, can reduce pain and inflammation from a hernia. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult healthcare professionals if a person has any underlying medical conditions or is taking other medications.
  • Cold or heat therapy: Cold therapy, such as an ice pack or cold compress, may help reduce inflammation and numb the area. Alternatively, applying a heating pad or warm compress to the affected area can help relax muscles and alleviate pain. The affected person should use heat or cold therapy for 15–20 minutes while ensuring to protect their skin from direct contact with extreme temperatures.
  • Physical therapy and exercise: Engaging in specific exercises and physical therapy techniques under the guidance of qualified professionals can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the hernia, improve flexibility, and relieve pain. These exercises typically stabilize the spine and support the affected area.
  • Posture and body mechanics: Maintaining good posture and practicing proper body mechanics can help reduce strain on the back and alleviate hernia-related pain. People should avoid slouching or sitting for prolonged periods and use ergonomic principles when lifting or performing daily activities.
  • Supportive devices: Wearing a supportive brace or belt specifically designed for back support may provide temporary relief by reducing pressure on the herniated area and providing additional stability.

People should contact their doctor if they have back pain relating to a hernia, as they can provide appropriate medical guidance and treatment.

Some situations when contacting a doctor is particularly important include:

  • severe or worsening pain
  • radiating pain or numbness
  • bowel or bladder dysfunction
  • changes in symptoms
  • persistent pain
  • inability to reduce the hernia at home
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing

Not all hernias cause back pain, and many are asymptomatic or cause symptoms unrelated to the back.

If a person is experiencing back pain and suspects it may relate to a hernia, it is best to consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.