Q: Since I started lifting weights, my belly button has gone from an innie to an outie, and it’s tender to the touch. Is this a common occurrence?
A: “It sounds like you’ve got an umbilical hernia,” says Ron Hekier, MD, a general surgeon in Texarkana, Texas. A hernia is a weakness in the wall of the abdomen that allows contents from the body cavity, such as a loop of bowel, to push through and cause a bulge. Hernias can occur in several locations, but umbilical hernias are relatively common, especially among patients who are overweight or have just given birth, explains Hekier, who has extensive experience in abdominal surgery. In many cases, a person with the belly-button blues has had a small hernia his or her entire life that has gone unnoticed.
Lifting weights can contribute to the protrusion, since it could cause an increase in intra-abdominal pressure that will push against an umbilical hernia defect, causing it to enlarge over time. In some cases, the variations in layers of tissue thickness simply make some people more susceptible.
Given that your hernia is tender to the touch, Hekier recommends a consultation with a surgeon. Especially since the problem won’t resolve itself on its own and may cause future complications (such as part of the intestine getting stuck in an out position).
The surgery is fairly straightforward and you’ll go home the same day, says Hekier. To reduce the chance of recurrence, most surgeons will ask their patients not to lift anything heavier than 20 or 30 pounds for the first two or three weeks after surgery and to refrain from truly heavy lifting for four to six weeks.