Weighted hula hoops are everywhere on TikTok right now, but one woman is here with a warning: She says using one gave her a hernia.
TikTok user @aalisonn_ laid out her whole ordeal in a post captioned, "I wish I could say this was a joke…" In the video, @aalisonn_ said she was diagnosed with an abdominal hernia "from overuse of a hula hoop." Yep.
She got into details in another TikTok, saying that, back in 2016, she would to use a three-pound hula hoop for 1.5 hours at a time. However, the instructions on the box said the hula hoop shouldn't be used for more than 20 minutes at once, she noted. And after using it "every day" for 1.5 hours, she "ended up with this strange pain" in her stomach.
At first, @aalisonn_ said she thought she was just sore from "building muscle." She eventually went to see a doctor, who diagnosed her with an abdominal hernia. "I had a tear in my stomach lining and muscle was popping through, causing pain," she wrote in the TikTok. (Related: Why Some Workouts Make You Feel Like Throwing Up)
As a result, she's now "left with a bulge" on her abdomen. Since that happened years ago, @aalisonn_ said she tried to use her weighted hula hoop again recently, but stopped after she was told by her doctor that "it could cause more major internal issues."
Plenty of people had questions about what a hernia feels like and whether it's even safe to use a weighted hula hoop in the first place. "I just ordered one. Why did I have to see this now," one person wrote in the comments. "New fear unlocked," another said. "Sending mine back," commented a third.
Got questions about this whole thing? SAME. Here, doctors break it all down.
What is a hernia, again?
A hernia is a catch-all term for when an organ pushes through the muscle or tissue that holds that organ in place, according to Cleveland Clinic.
When someone talks about a hernia happening in their abdomen, they're usually referring to what's called an inguinal hernia. Inguinal hernias happen when the contents of your abdomen bulge through a weak spot in your lower abdominal wall, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). These hernias can contain fat or part of the small intestine and, in women, they might also contain part of the reproductive system, like an ovary. These hernias may slide in and out of the abdominal wall, making them something you can actually see in the form of a bulge in your lower stomach.
Inguinal hernias are "relatively common," according to the NIDDK — about 27 percent of men and 3 percent of women will develop one at some point in their lives.
Inguinal hernias can cause serious complications; if they become stuck, blood flow to the hernia can be cut off, which can cause tissues inside the hernia to die, according to the NIDDK. This is considered a medical emergency that would need a doctor's attention ASAP, says David Renton, M.D., a surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
What causes a hernia?
At baseline, a weak area in the muscles and connective tissue of the lower abdominal wall — specifically, in an area known as the inguinal canal — allows an inguinal hernia to develop, according to the NIDDK. But there are other things that can play a role, such as genetics, chronic conditions that increase pressure inside your abdomen (think: a chronic cough or constipation), and repeatedly doing activities that cause pressure inside your abdomen, such as heavy lifting or standing or walking for many hours a day.
Can you actually get a hernia from a weighted hula hoop?
Yes-ish. A hernia can also be caused by "repetitive twisting, kicking, turning at high speeds, or from a traumatic contact occurrence," says Brian Schulz, M.D., sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. While hula hoops clearly fall under the "repetitive twisting" part, doctors say they don't seem to be a huge risk for hernias. "People usually develop hernias from repeated stress to their abdominal core," explains Dr. Renton. That happens more often from lifting heavy objects vs. bumping a hoop around — even if the hula hoop is weighted, he adds.
But it's still possible for this to happen, says Richina Bicette, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. "Any exercise that causes you to strain your abdominal or groin muscles repetitively can place you at risk for developing a hernia," she explains.
And if you happen to be doing those repetitive exercises incorrectly, that can potentially lead you to develop a hernia as well, adds Dr. Renton. "The more you do this, the higher the overall risk," he explains. (Don't let this scare you out of strength training; lifting heavy has so many important benefits.)
Basically, while it's not necessarily the most common way to suffer a hernia, it is possible to develop one while using a weighted hula hoop, and you can also get a hernia from something else entirely (such as lifting a heavy object) but make it worse by using a weighted hula hoop afterward.
What are the signs of a hernia?
These are the main symptoms of an inguinal hernia, according to the NIDDK:
a bulge in your groin (the area between your lower abdomen and thighs)
a bulge in the scrotum in men
feelings of discomfort, pain, heaviness, or burning in the groin
Symptoms can get worse when you strain, lift, cough, or stand for a long time, and they may feel better when you rest or lie down, notes the NIDDK.
How do you treat a hernia?
It depends on how bad it is. Treatment usually involves surgery or, in some cases, simply keeping an eye on the hernia to see if it progresses or gets worse — that is, if you haven't already experienced complications from the hernia (such as a lack of blood flow to the area, which is typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever, extreme pain, and a red or purple color change to the abdominal bulge), says Dr. Renton. However, "if you choose to not have them fixed, they will get bigger with time," he warns. "They do not go away once they are there."
You don't have to get hernia surgery if you don't want to, though. "If the hernia isn't bothersome and isn't causing any complications, you can live your entire life with it," notes Dr. Bicette.
Fixing a hernia usually requires surgery, which is a "generally minor procedure" that doesn't typically require overnight hospitalization, says Dr. Nelson. Afterward, you'll be asked to avoid lifting heavy things for a few weeks, but you can usually go back to work within a few days, says Dr. Renton. (Related: How to Stay Fit — and Sane — When You're Injured)
How can you avoid getting a hernia in the first place?
While doctors don't think that weighted hula hoops are a huge risk factor for developing hernias, they do urge people to be smart about them. Meaning, read the directions and actually follow them. Additionally, keep the general rules of hernia prevention in mind: "Lift things correctly (i.e. by using your knees), don't strain when exercising, and know your limits," says Dr. Renton.
And, of course, if your body is telling you something is off, Dr. Nelson says it's important to listen to it and see your doctor about the next steps.