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Chiropractic Care for Hiatal Hernias

Published Date: 
May 31, 2023
a man is holding his stomach because of pain from a hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of someone’s stomach bulges through the large muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest.

Chiropractic treatment is non-invasive and uses gentle manipulation to ease the stomach back down to its natural position. This frees the hiatus from the pressure. It usually takes several adjustments to achieve optimal results, but most people notice mild to moderate improvement after just a single adjustment.

Hiatal Hernias

A woman is wincing and holding her abdomen because of Hiatal Hernia pain.

A hiatal hernia develops when a part of your stomach bulges up through the muscle separating your abdomen from your diaphragm. The diaphragm features a small hole that allows food to pass through and move into the stomach. When someone has a hiatal hernia, the stomach passes into that hole.

Hiatal hernias can be large or small.

Smaller hernias rarely cause problems. Many people have them and don’t even realize it. However, if a hiatal hernia is large, it means food and stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus. 

There are also two types of hiatal hernias:

  • Sliding, which occurs when a portion of the stomach moves up
  • Paraesophageal, which occurs when another abdominal organ moves upwards


Weak muscles are the primary cause of a hiatal hernia. Muscles might weaken due to:

  • Aging
  • Injury
  • Chronic coughing
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Exercising
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Birth defects
  • Pregnancy


The most noticeable symptom of a hiatal hernia is heartburn, which is often severe. Other symptoms include:

  • Regurgitation of food or liquids into the mouth
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus (acid reflux)
  • Pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Feeling full with just a small amount of food
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting blood 
  • Passing black stool due to gastrointestinal bleeding

How Chiropractors Can Help Hiatal Hernias

Chiropractic treatment effectively alleviates a hiatal hernia because it targets the underlying issues. Chiropractors use specific manipulation techniques to ease the hernia back into place. 

Adjusting Hiatal Hernias

Chiropractic adjustments help the nerves that run into the diaphragm, which relieves the pressure and tightness associated with a hiatal hernia. It might not “cure” the problem, but it improves digestive function and relaxes the muscles in the abdomen.

Therapeutic Massage for Hiatal Hernias

A woman is getting a therapeutic massage for a hiatal hernia.

Self-massage is an effective at-home treatment for easing the effects of a hiatal hernia. A professional, therapeutic massage offers even more relief.

The massage technique used to treat a hiatal hernia is as follows:

  • Locate the breastbone
  • Place the tips of your fingers about an inch or so below the base of your breastbone 
  • Press in three directions: first up, then in, and then down 
  • Using a constant rolling motion, press the tips of your fingers into this soft area an inch or so from the base of the breastbone in an upward
  • Continue this for about one minute
  • Do this for one minute, three or more times each day

Lifestyle Tips to Help Hiatal Hernias Heal At Home

A woman is lusting over pizza.

In addition to chiropractic adjustment, lifestyle changes also help manage the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. Your chiropractor can help you make adjustments to your lifestyle, including:

  • Dietary changes
  • Decreasing serving/portion sizes
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Exercise
  • Losing weight
  • Sleeping with your head elevated by approximately 8 inches higher than your abdomen
  • Not eating at least two to three hours before going to bed
  • Avoid eating certain triggers, such as fried, spicy, or high-fat foods, caffeine, alcohol, and more (triggers vary from person to person)
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding tight-fitting clothing


A hiatal hernia is usually not a serious medical problem, but it can be extremely uncomfortable and disruptive. Moderate to severe hiatal hernias cause pain and make everyday life challenging. 

You should contact a doctor if you experience any of the following in conjunction with a hiatal hernia:

  • Can’t pass gas 
  • Can’t have a bowel movement
  • Feelings of nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain 

In addition to the lifestyle changes that can help you manage hiatal hernia, a chiropractic adjustment gets to the underlying cause of the problem and helps you alleviate the discomfort associated with the condition.

Dr. Darren Faherty D.C.

In 2004, Dr. Darren Faherty graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from UWEC - University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Dr. Darren continued education at the highly esteemed University of Western States (formerly Western States Chiropractic College) where he obtained his chiropractic degree in 2007. He has been helping people recover from injuries and return to their normal lifestyles ever since.

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