What is a Hernia Belt?
A hernia belt, which can also be referred to as a hernia prevention belt or a hernia support belt, is an accessory used to either prevent or support a parastomal hernia.
A parastomal hernia is a type of hernia that’s common among ostomates. So common, in fact, that up to nearly 50% of ostomates may develop a hernia at some point (SOURCE).
This occurs when the gut breaches the abdominal wall muscle and creates a bulge under the skin. Parastomal hernias can be quite large and cause other complications like leaks, improper appliance fit, etc.
It’s important that anyone who has a parastomal hernia be in contact with their stoma nurse or surgeon to make sure that it doesn’t become larger.
Sometimes, surgical correction is required (or desired), while at other times a hernia support belt will be used.
- Hernia belts can be used to minimize the chance of developing a parastomal hernia.
- If you already have a parastomal hernia, a hernia support belt may help to prevent it from getting worse.
- Hernia belts also provide support for a hernia to allow for better appliance management.
- Hernia belts can often allow an ostomate to get back into exercising with heavy weights, play sports, or do heavy lifting at home or work.
- There is no guarantee when it comes to hernia prevention, so hernia belts aren’t 100% effective.
- Hernia belts often need to be fitted, which can be inconvenient.
- Hernia belts tend to be made of a stiffer material compared to fabric bands, which may not be as comfortable to wear.
- Depending on where you live, hernia belts are an out-of-pocket expense.
- Hernia belts may generate more heat and sweat around the abdomen, which may be uncomfortable. Fortunately, some brands do allow for better air flow.
- Hernia belts, especially those with a hole for your stoma to go through, may increase the likelihood of a prolapse (which I’ve personally experienced while using a hernia belt).
How Hernia Belts are Typically Sold
Hernia belts are often sized to a specific wearer. Not only does it have to fit snugly around your abdomen, but it also has to allow your ostomy appliance to fit through a hole that’s exactly the right size.
I would recommend speaking directly with the manufacturer of your belt to find the right size for you. Better yet, have your stoma nurse take the measurements for you.
In some cases, you may be able to be fitted at a local medical supply store before they place an order for you.
Here’s a video by Nu-Hope, a company that makes hernia belts, showing how to take measurements for their Nu-Form belt (other manufacturers may have different instructions):
Hernia belts can easily sell for over $100, but most insurance companies will cover the cost if you have a prescription from your doctor. Even if you don’t have a parastomal hernia, I would still suggest getting a prescription so that you can get a hernia prevention belt.
If you’re looking for suppliers of hernia belts, I have a list of companies who make them on THIS page.
Purchase on Amazon
How to Use a Hernia Belt
Hernia belts are meant to be worn around your abdomen.
Most will have an adjustable waistband with a fastener to close the ends (usually Velcro). They will also have a hole for your appliance to fit through, and surrounding that hole is usually a stiffer material to give you better support around your stoma.
To put one on, you’ll want to place it on your abdomen with the hole just over your appliance. You may loosely attach the Velcro ends to hold it in place.
Next, you’ll want to feed the bottom of your appliance through the hole in the belt. Pay close attention that the flange of your bag isn’t being pressed on.
You can now tighten the band appropriately – this should be fairly tight as it needs to apply pressure to your skin, but not so tight that’s it’s uncomfortable.
Some hernia belts may have an extra flap that goes over your appliance (as in the photo above). This extra flap may restrict the flow of your output, causing pancaking, so be aware of that.
Tips on Using Hernia Belts
Here are a few tips to make wearing a hernia belt more useful.
- Wear it. The thing with hernia belts is that they are only helping you if you wear it! I know it sounds like common sense, but sometimes we get lazy or neglect these things.
- Have another belt fitted if you gain/lose a lot of weight. If your body shape changes drastically, your current hernia belt may not fit 100%. Get it checked or refit yourself for a new one.
- Some belts are designed to offer better air flow. If you live in a hot climate, this might be something to ask about.
- If you change brands or the style of your appliance and the hole on the belt no longer fits snugly around the base (or flange), you may need to get a different belt.
Alternatives to Hernia Belts
There aren’t many great substitutes for true hernia belts, although some manufacturers who make ostomy support bands will claim that their products can help prevent or support parastomal hernias.
I would take those claims with a grain of salt unless their bands use a stiff material to press against your skin. If they use stretchy fabric, there won’t be enough support there.
If you have a hernia and are looking for moral support, check out the Community Forums.