Hernia Prevention Tips From an Athlete Living With a Stoma

Collin, an ileostomate and athlete, shares his tips for getting back to exercise, re-building your abdominal core, and helping prevent parastomal hernias. 

Learn how to get active, re-build your core strength, and help prevent a hernia.

My name is Collin Jarvis, and I've had an ileostomy since 2014. When I had surgery I was in college and competed as a track and field athlete, so it was important for me to understand how to avoid getting a hernia when I returned to intense physical exercise. In this article, I’ll be sharing some things that people living with an ostomy can do to help prevent parastomal hernias. 

Tip #1 – Get active again as soon as you can 
Make sure to get moving as quickly as possible after your ostomy surgery but be safe about your approach. Talk with your clinicians about what level of activity is appropriate for where you are in your recovery process. Getting active after surgery is one of the best things you can do to re-strengthen your abdominal wall and lower the chances of developing a hernia.1 In most cases, this starts with going on daily walks. You can progress from there as your incisions heal and the swelling from surgery subsides. 
Tip #2 – Understand the purpose of hernia support belts and support garments 
It's not certain whether a hernia support belt will keep a new hernia from forming, but it may help one manage an existing hernia.2 It’s important to be aware of this so that you don’t return to physical activity and core restrengthening believing that a hernia belt will prevent a parastomal hernia. 
Often, the biggest barriers to getting active again after stoma surgery are challenges related to leakage, comfort, or appearance – all of which can be addressed by wearing an ostomy support garment.3 In my personal experience and as someone who has spoken to thousands of other ostomates, I’ve found that the additional security of support garments – such as ostomy wraps and underwear – can make the experience of getting active much more comfortable and less intimidating.  

Since we know that getting active again after surgery is one of the best ways to prevent a hernia, I believe that wearing an ostomy support garment can help facilitate the return to physical activity.  
Tip #3 – Re-build your abdominal core strength and use functional movement 
Some of us who have had ostomy surgery will come out of the hospital with a weak core, bad posture, and, as a result, poor functional movement patterns. This can be due to a wide range of reasons, including a compromised abdominal wall from the surgery, prolonged sitting in hospital beds, chronic pain, atrophied muscles, and even our psychological state. Each one of these things directly influences our posture and how we move, and these are two of the most important things we can work on to prevent a hernia (of any kind) from forming.4,5 
My suggestion is to start by safely rebuilding your abdominal core strength, and improving your mobility and flexibility. Your abdominal muscles are the foundation for all movement and, by nature of having abdominal surgery, will be a primary point of focus for your post-operative recovery. Check with your physician to make sure it’s OK to start this process, and ask about safe and targeted exercises you can try. 
Once you’ve built up the foundational core strength that you need to perform normal daily activities, my next recommendation is to contact a physical therapist (PT) and ask them about “functional movement patterns for hernia prevention.”4 Most PTs have a wealth of knowledge on this subject and can teach you how to move in safe and functional ways. Typical rehabilitation and programming for functional movement patterns include both muscle restrengthening and mobility/flexibility exercises. 

Combine these strategies to help avoid hernias and live an active life 
Preventing a parastomal hernia from forming is a multi-faceted but achievable goal. While there is no single thing you can do to avoid getting a hernia, combining the strategies of safely returning to physical activity and working with a PT to ensure that you’re moving in a safe, functional, and mobile way will be your best bet for living a healthy and comfortable life with your ostomy. 

1. Russell, Sarah. “Parastomal hernia and physical activity. Are patients getting the right advice?.” British journal of nursing (Mark Allen Publishing) vol. 26,17 (2017): S12-S18. 
2. Borglit, Trine et al. “Assessment of a support garment in parastomal bulging from a patient perspective: a qualitative study.” International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being vol. 17,1 (2022): 2039428. 
3. Pittman, Joyce et al. “Ostomy Complications and Quality of Life of Ostomy Support Belt/Garment Wearers: A Web-Based Survey.” Journal of wound, ostomy, and continence nursing : official publication of The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society vol. 49,1 (2022): 60-68. 
4. Abouelnaga, Walid Ahmed, and Nancy Hassan Aboelnour. “Effectiveness of Active Rehabilitation Program on Sports Hernia: Randomized Control Trial.” Annals of rehabilitation medicine vol. 43,3 (2019): 305-313. 
5. Munegato, Daniele et al. “Sports hernia and femoroacetabular impingement in athletes: A systematic review.” World journal of clinical cases vol. 3,9 (2015): 823-30. 


Collin received compensation from Hollister Incorporated for his contribution to this article. The testimonials, statements, and opinions presented are applicable to the people depicted. These testimonials are representative of their experience, but the exact results and experience will be unique and individual to each person. Please make sure to consult with your healthcare professional for further guidance and instruction. The information provided herein is not medical advice and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your personal physician or other healthcare provider.