by Wayne Still
One of the most common physical afflictions to beset the human body is the inguinal hernia. It is far more common in men than women particularly if the man is sedentary and overweight. Usually dealt with by surgery, there are about 750,000 procedures done in the US each year with a 10-15% failure rate.
An inguinal hernia occurs when there is a tear in the membranes and muscles of the abdominal wall which allows a section of the small intestine to protrude through the abdominal wall. The inguinal area is located just superior and lateral to the pubic bone. A hernia is not life threatening except in the case where the intestine actually protrudes through the skin when it is known as a strangulated hernia and emergency surgery is needed. Without surgical intervention to replace the intestine and repair the abdominal wall the digestive system becomes blocked. Obviously not a good thing.
Late in 2015 I was getting back into swimming after not having done much of the sport for about four decades. I was in a coached program and at one point we were taught the butterfly kick. One evening after a couple of practices of this I felt a softness in my inguinal region which was soon followed by a palpable bulge. To my horror I realized that I had developed a hernia and I am neither sedentary or overweight. A quick check online confirmed my suspicion along with the information I have relayed in the first paragraph. Now I am not a fan of surgical interventions except in exceptional circumstances. I see the negative after effects of surgical scar tissue in my bodywork practice on a regular basis so was not too inclined to go that route. In any event a MD at a walk in clinic told me it would be six months to year before I could have the procedure. So I started to do more research on non surgical treatments for the problem.
What came up immediately on Dr Google was the use of comfrey root poultices along with a bunch of horror stories about botched surgeries. Also encouraging reports of people who were able to deal with a hernia without surgery. I found a source of comfrey root, bought a coffee grinder to make it into a powder, then learned how to make and apply the poultice. This involves making a pad from 4×4 cotton sponges, mixing the powdered comfrey root with enough water to make a paste roughly the consistency of brownie dough. The mixture is applied to the pad and taped to the area where the hernia is happening leaving it on for 8-10 hours. After the first painful removal I learned to shave the area as I am a rather hairy beast. I continued to apply the poultices pretty much on a nightly basis sleeping with my amethyst bio mat over the poultice for several months. In the summer I was able to source fresh comfrey from a friends farm so was able to use the leaves as well as the roots in the mix. I was also getting weekly acupuncture and cold laser treatments to the area. In addition to all this I would spend an hour or so in the evening on my slant board with the intestine pushed back into place doing Kegel exercises that extended into the abdominal area to strengthen the muscles of the abdominal wall so as to facilitate the healing of the tear. Skiing, swimming and cycling activities were suspended for the duration of the winter.
Over the course of several months I felt the area of the hernia become solid again although the loop of intestine continued to come through the wall. The encouraging part was that the loop gradually got smaller and harder. There is smooth muscle tissue in the intestinal wall which was strengthening and shortening the loop. I did not ever have a lot of discomfort from the hernia but I now go for days with out feeling anything out of the ordinary in the area fourteen months after the initial occurrence. During the summer I was able to pursue all the activities I enjoy so I am quite satisfied with the healing regime I chose. As I continue the exercise regime I described above I am confident that eventually the hernia will completely heal.