An inguinal hernia occurs when soft tissue — usually part of the membrane lining the abdominal cavity (omentum) or part of the intestine — protrudes through a weak point or tear in the abdominal muscles. The resulting bulge can be painful, especially when you cough, bend over or lift a heavy object. Inguinal hernias are more common in men.
A hernia truss is a supportive undergarment designed to keep the protruding tissue in place and relieve discomfort. Ancient history documents the use of hernia trusses as early as 1700 B.C. If you have an inguinal hernia, a hernia truss can help you feel more comfortable — but it isn't a replacement for medical care.
A hernia truss doesn't treat the underlying problem of an inguinal hernia. Surgery is usually needed to repair a painful hernia. Untreated, a painful hernia may grow larger. Serious complications can occur if a loop of intestine becomes trapped in the weak abdominal wall (incarcerated hernia). An incarcerated hernia can cause diminished blood flow in the trapped intestine. This condition is called strangulation, and it can lead to the death of the affected bowel tissue. A strangulated hernia is life-threatening and requires immediate surgery.
If your hernia is small and isn't bothering you, your doctor may recommend a watch-and-wait approach. If your hernia is causing discomfort, don't rely on a hernia truss. See your doctor to discuss treatment options.