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You may have come across the term 'watchful waiting' in your research on hernias or been told about it by your doctor. So what does this term actually mean and why is it used when talking about a strategy for dealing with a hernia?

What is Watchful-Waiting?

'Watchful-Waiting' is the process of doing nothing but monitoring your hernia and trying to mitigate the condition. Diet,  weight-loss and smoking as well as a healthly lifestyle with moderate exercise are all elements of this. We would suggest that our underwear is also an important  factor in managing this condition. 

It is an alternative to surgery and for mild hernias where the pain is managable this is actually mainstream policy (at least in the UK and many other western countries).  In the past the dogma has been that every hernia will need surgery at some point.  However, given the poor outcomes of some mesh surgery and potential reoccurance of the hernia at the wound site this is a ultimately a balance of 'discomfort now' versus 'risk later'  for patients with asymptomatic inguinal hernias.

When is it not a suitable course of action?

If your hernia is painful and you are getting no relief then a course of 'waiting' for improvement will have little benefit. You should seek surgery in consultation with your doctor or medical practitioner.

Evidence of the benefits of Watchful-Waiting

A recent article in Annuals of Surgery (September 2013 - Volume 258 - Issue 3 - p 508–515) describes a long-term trial of men with Inguinal Hernias. Of the 254 men who consented to a period of watchful waiting just 32% had requested surgery in the follow-up period of 7 years (younger men fared better than older men at managing their hernias).  This is despite the small risks of complications from strangulated hernias and peritonitis which often encourage patients to elect for surgery.

The conclusion drawn from the study was :

"Men who present to their physicians because of an inguinal hernia even when minimally symptomatic should be counseled that although watchful-waiting (WW) is a reasonable and safe strategy, symptoms will likely progress and an operation will be needed eventually"

(Our emphasis in bold).

Related books available at Amazon
Inguinal Hernias Mesh-Free Hernia Repair My Hernia Op The Anatomy of Stretching Core Strength Training


Kindle version

Kindle Version

Kindle version



You are not alone - some famous names who had a hernia

Dwayne Johnson

Keith Duffy


Ken Dodd