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The Hernia That Never Was

I recently became convinced I had a hernia. Before I go on, let me tell you that for the past couple of years, every once in a while when I would roll over from my left side onto my back and happened to have my hand on the right side of my lower abdomen, I would feel a lump roll with me. Then sink down into the Netherlands of my bowels.

For several years prior, I would have to sit up in bed to sneeze because if I didn’t, a sharp pain would slice through that same spot.

During the past week, I have had obvious pain. And felt something like a hard lump in that area. Originally, I thought I’d just pulled the rectus abdominus muscle there. Because I pulled several other abdominal muscles, including my right oblique, when I attempted a leg lift for the first time since eighth grade.

Wanna know why? I wanted to strengthen my abs so that my back pain would go away. Can you say, “backfire”? (BTW, since then I’ve read that leg lifts – the kind you do while lying on your back – are actually bad for your lower back. FYI.)

Back to the injury. The pain persisted. As did the hardness. And I could feel that weird rolling. I began to wonder: could I have a hernia?

Never mind that most hernias afflict men, not women. I knew that I’d spent too many years with a weak core trying to lift and drag things that I had no business lifting or dragging. So I did the best thing you can do when you have worrisome physical symptoms, what any sane, responsible person would do: I went to the Internet to diagnose myself.

A hernia feels like a hard lump. Check.

A hernia hurts. Or not, depending on how big it is. Sometimes, this area hurt and sometimes it didn’t.

A hernia sinks back into place when you lie down. Check.

If you have a hernia and sneeze or cough, it’s likely to hurt. Check. Well, previously, anyway. Not so much that miserable week, but it didn’t matter. Didn’t matter that simply straining the rectus abdominus above the pubic bone can make coughing and sneezing painful as well.

Nope. Didn’t matter. I had a hernia.

I had myself convinced that surgery was in my future. I hadn’t just pulled a muscle when trying the leg lifts. I had caused a hernia – or made an existing hernia bigger.

Of course, J heard all about it, and he got as depressed as I was.

“If this isn’t significantly better by Friday,” I announced on Wednesday, “I’m going to set up an appointment with an internal medicine doctor to get a diagnosis one way or the other.”

Have I told you that I despise conventional medicine in general, and most doctors in particular? (Now, if you’re a doctor, don’t be offended. I said “most”, not “all.” Maybe you’re one of the few that actually knows that your patients have brains and patiently listen to everything they say and take their thoughts into consideration instead of acting like a…well, never mind.)

My point: for me to believe I should see a doctor means I’m seriously worried.

Two days passed and Friday came. The pain was diminishing. The day after I told J that the area felt hard underneath my skin, I checked it and it felt softer (can you say, “strained muscle relaxing”?) The pain became more intermittent, rearing its ugly head when I did work in the garden and feeling more like a stabbing pain than anything else.

One article I’d read on hernias vs. pulled muscles stated that hernia pain feels like an ache or burning whereas pulled muscles feel like sharp stabs. And that the pain will come up when you make the muscle work.

Did I tell you that hernias can’t heal themselves? They are holes in the muscle wall. They don’t get better over time.

All the while, I had been trying to feel a bulge when I was standing and walking around. Hernias show up as a bulge when you’re standing and walking around. I couldn’t find a bulge.

But I thought maybe all the middle-aged flab was hiding it. Was sure it had to be.

I tried the cough test. It not only didn’t hurt when I cough, but no bulge came out, either.

I was at my wits’ end. Hernia, or pulled muscle?

And then, it happened. I was lying on my back in bed, had been lying on my back for a few minutes, with my hand on my right lower abdomen.

And I felt it.

I felt that rolling underneath my hand. It rolled toward my pubic bone, and disappeared.

Hernias do not suddenly bulge when you’ve been lying on your back for several minutes. It was just gas or feces moving through my colon! Why, all the other times, did I feel it after having been on my left side for a few minutes and then rolling onto my back? Coincidence. That’s all.

I was so excited you would think someone had just handed me a million dollars. Relief flowed down over me like a refreshing rain.

I never had a hernia. Possibly scar tissue from previous injuries that I never treated correctly so that the area strains more easily and hurts longer when I re-injure it.

But I can live with that. Even know how to reduce it.

Thank goodness! Now I can be happy and go on with – wait a minute. Right under my bellybutton it hurts something awful. Ouch. This is too weird. What’s wrong with me now? Could it be…could it be…






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