Most hernia surgery will have you out of the hospital the same day, and feeling pretty good within a week or two. But the time in between just plain hurts. Managing the pain after hernia surgery depends on the type of operation and the severity of the hernia, but in general, recovery requires you to do exactly what your surgeon tells you--no more, no less--and to use your pain-relief medication as prescribed.
The First 24 Hours
Once the anesthetic has worn off and you've come to and gone home, you might feel better than you expected. Many surgery patients mistake this as a sign that they're recovering quickly. Pain after hernia surgery is generally less in the first 24 hours than in the following two days. Your doctor should give you specific instructions on what to do immediately after surgery. Follow them.
Most of the pain you're feeling is coming from the healing incision scar or scars, and the abdominal muscles that are pulling on the repair your doctor just made. Keeping these muscles relaxed is key to reducing the pain. Find a position where lying down is comfortable, and find a way to walk that makes it less than excruciating to get up and eat or go to the bathroom. If you have to sit up, pull yourself up with your arms rather than your abdominal muscles.
Your doctor will give you a prescription painkiller to get you through your recovery time. Use it according to your prescription. If it's not working, call your doctor. Do not increase your dosage on your own or take someone else's pain medicine.
After surgery, you'll find out quickly which movements hurt. Usually it hurts to do anything that requires the abdominal muscles to contract--coughing, laughing, sexual activity, using the bathroom and sitting up, for example. Avoid any unnecessary abdominal contraction.
Your doctor will give you a timetable of when you will be able to do certain things. If your surgery was laparoscopic, you probably can return to work in a few days. If you had an open hernioplasty (mesh repair), you might need a week or two. If you had an open herniorrhaphy, it could take four to six weeks before everything is normal.
Your doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment to remove your stitches and ensure that the surgical repair took hold. But if you suspect something is wrong during your recovery, don't wait. Call your doctor if your pain exceeds what you were told to expect, if you are showing signs of infection, or if recovery is taking longer than it should.