It’s estimated that 50% of people over 50 yrs. Old will be diagnosed with a hiatal hernia in their life, with 95% of those cases being a sliding type 1 hiatal hernia. That percentage rises to 60% for 60 yr. Old’s. Dr. David Kulla and the Synergy Wellness team have some nonsurgical techniques and solutions that will help you avoid surgery and medication.
What is a hiatal Hernia?
A hiatal hernia is when the stomach herniates upward through the hiatus in the diaphragm—causing a second smaller stomach above the diaphragm trapping the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) open, allowing acid to pass upward through the esophagus. A simple at home Hiatal Hernia Finger Test can help you determine if you may have a hernia.
Common hiatal hernia symptoms
Acid reflux or GERD leads to dysphagia (difficulty eating and swallowing), esophagitis, erosions, ulcers, and even pre-cancer (Barrett’s esophagus).
The symptoms of a hiatal hernia vary from person to person. For some, heart palpitations and chest pain can mimic a heart attack. Hiatal hernia can also cause difficulty breathing, stomach bloating, and belching.
Some people are more prone to hernias. Poor posture or scoliosis can make someone more susceptible to a hiatal hernia, or in the case of pregnancy or Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, their ligaments and tendons are too loose. Other factors can increase the likelihood of developing a hiatal hernia, such as; chronic constipation (building abdominal pressure), heavy weight lifting, obesity, and weak diaphragmatic muscles.
Hiatal hernias can be categorized into four types. 90% of hiatal hernia cases are sliding type 1 Hiatal hernias.
Diagnosing sliding-type one hiatal hernia
Diagnosing a small hiatal hernia of 2cm or less can be very difficult through traditional testing methods. Many small Hiatal hernias are not seen well on endoscopy or barium swallow. Some additional tests are manometry, esophagram, and pH monitoring.
Three methods to help diagnose a hiatal hernia
1: Symptoms; Do you have one or more of the following?
If so, you most likely have a hiatal hernia acid reflux, difficulty breathing, stomach pain, bloating, belching, dysphagia (painful swallowing), heart palpitations.
2: Drink a glass of apple cider vinegar; if your acid reflux, GERD, or heartburn gets worse within 30 minutes of drinking it, then you most likely have a hiatal hernia
3: “The Hiatal Hernia Finger Test” can quickly help you diagnose a hiatal hernia. Place your fingers straight into your stomach just below the left rib cage, about one inch from the center of your ribs or xiphoid process.
If at least two of these tests are positive, you most likely have a hiatal hernia. You can then confirm a sliding type 1 hiatal hernia by getting an endoscopy. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that traditional testing will see and diagnose a small hiatal hernia. Anything below 4 cm is considered a small hiatal hernia.
How to Fix Hiatal Hernia without surgery or medication
There are three key elements to treating and fixing a hiatal hernia.
1: POSTURE, POSTURE, POSTURE
If you have bad posture and hunch forward, you MUST fix that. If you have thoracic or thoracolumbar scoliosis, you need to address that. Chiropractic care is the most effective way to help fix poor posture and correct scoliosis. Don’t forget the stomach is attached to the spine via the anterior longitudinal ligament, making spinal care crucial for complete resolution and recovery of a hiatal hernia. Your diaphragm and stomach also get nerve supply from the thoracic spine, T6-T9.
2: “The Hiatal Hernia Maneuver” is an essential part of recovery because, during this procedure, we are pulling the stomach down below the diaphragm. In chronic cases, we break up any abdominal adhesions that may be present.
(at the time of this article being written we are developing a self-help tool called the hiatal hernia hook so that you can do the hiatal hernia maneuver yourself at home)
3: Strengthen your diaphragm muscle with stomach breathing instead of chest breathing. You can start with the following three exercises.
*Check out the video with 10 of my favorite hiatal hernia exercises if you want more.
Exercise #1: Lumbar Extension
Lie face down with your legs open at hip-width apart and the top of your feet on the floor. Rest your forehead on the mat and relax your shoulders. Bend your elbows and place your forearms on the mat with your palms facing down directly under the shoulders. Press your palms and extend your elbows, raising your chest and head of the mat. Keep contact between your forearms and the ground and your head aligned with your spine. Engage your abdominals to support your back. Hold this position for the designated amount of time.
Exercise #2: Diaphragmatic breathing with a towel
Sit upright in a chair. Place a long towel around the bottom part of your rib cage. Hold each end in both hands. Pull the towel tightening your rib cage while breathing out. Slowly release the towel while breathing in. Repeat the movement.
Exercise #3: Diaphragmatic breathing
Lie on your back with knees bent. Place a small weight on your abdomen. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. Breathe in towards your abdomen. Feel how the weight rises. Feel your lower chest expanding sideways and backward. Breathe out and feel how the weight lowers. Notice a small gap between inhale and exhale. Relax into the breathing cycle.