What are the common risk factors for developing a hernia?

What are the common risk factors for developing a hernia?

Common risk factors for developing a hernia

Hernias are much more common than you would be led to believe. Most people with one will rarely show symptoms other than mild discomfort. Someone with a hernia can’t leave it untreated in the hope it will go away.

While many of the symptoms are clear to pick up on (bulges, pains, trouble swallowing, heartburn etc.), the common risk factors for developing a hernia can help someone understand if their aches and pains could be a hernia.

At OneWelbeck Digestive Health, we help patients who need treatment for hernias of the groin and abdominal wall (inguinal hernias). We believe that a solid knowledge of common risk factors is important and can help anyone gain some insight as to why a hernia can occur.

Here is some information, common risk factors, and what to look out for with regards to inguinal hernias.

Hernia risk factors

Hernia risk factors to look out for include:

● Sex

● Age

● Family History

● Constipation

● Smoking/Coughing

● Strenuous exercise

● Pregnancy


Men are much more likely to get inguinal hernias than women. This is because of where the inguinal canal is located.

This canal is supposed to act as a pathway of sorts from the abdomen wall to the genitalia. For some men, this canal is weaker due to testicles descending after birth and the canal not closing up properly. It leaves a gap of sorts for tissue to push through the abdomen wall.


Hernias happen when someone has weaker muscles. Older patients who don’t have strength in their core area tend to themselves at a higher risk of getting a hernia.

While this will mostly cause inguinal hernias, there are some instances (especially with females) where femoral hernias occur around the inner thigh.

Family history

If members of the family have been diagnosed with hernias, there is a small risk that others could get a hernia too. This isn’t a genetic issue where hernias can be “passed down”, but is more likely due to a family history of weaker muscles across the abdominal wall.


Chronic constipation can be a red flag that someone has a hernia. A hernia can lean against the bowel, which would cause difficulty in being to go to the toilet. The strain it puts on someone can create moments of sharp pain or the sensation of feeling as though you’re about to be sick.

If you’d like to know more, we recommend reading this article on what causes constipation in adults.


When getting a cold or a cough, it is common after the symptoms have passed to feel the tightness in your core muscles. The strain put on them every time someone coughs requires the abdominal wall to tighten up.

For someone who would have a chronic cough (smoking being the most obvious reason for this), the stress on the abdomen can result in tissue protruding through weak spots.

Strenuous Exercise

Most people won’t get a hernia from regular exercise. Still, certain sports where the individual is pushing themselves and creating a lot of stress on the abdomen can lead to a hernia.
For example, someone running may not be at high risk, but someone carrying out exercises which use a lot of force which requires lifting/pushing/pulling can. It’s common to see someone wearing a weight belt to protect the abdomen when lifting heavy weights, but it is not a failsafe option to prevent a hernia.

Stretching and warming up correctly, along with lifting appropriate weights can help reduce the risk.


Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on the abdomen and creates unwanted pressure. Hernias can happen due to the muscles weakening while also having to stretch out. This is known as an umbilical hernia and occurs close to the belly button.

Looking for more information on hernias?

We recommend you read more about hernias by visiting our inguinal hernia page, where you’ll find information on how we diagnose and treat patients here at OneWelbeck.

Want to discuss hernia treatment?

If you, or someone you know, have a hernia and would like to talk with someone about treatment options, you can call the clinic team on 0203 653 2009, or leave us a message on our contact page and we’ll be in touch.

How OneWelbeck
can help

Here at OneWelbeck, we have a team of gastroenterology specialists, state of the art facilities and diagnostics, and highly competitive financial packages for self-funding patients as well as those with private health care.

Digestive Health