A hernia (hiatal hernia) is a movement of part of the stomach up into the chest cavity. The stomach presses up through a small hole in the diaphragm muscle. The diaphragm is the muscular wall that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity.

Different types of hiatal hernias include:

  • Sliding hiatal hernia — part of the stomach slides into and out of the chest cavity
  • Fixed hiatal hernia — upper part of the stomach remains in the chest cavity
  • Complicated hiatal hernia 

Risk Factors  

More common in adults over 50, hernias have an increased chance of occurring with: 

  • Obesity
  • Abdominal injury
  • Regular increased pressure in the abdomen from coughing, vomiting, straining, weight lifting and other exertions

Hernias & GERD Relief

Most people with hiatal hernias have no symptoms, but they can cause GERD. Treating the acid reflux of GERD can allow the hernia to heal. Symptom relief results from losing weight, avoiding certain foods and quitting smoking.

You can also:

  • Reduce pressure on your abdomen   
  • Elevate the head of your bed
  • Use antacids

Prescription Medications   

For chronic reflux and heartburn, several types of medications may be prescribed to reduce acid in the stomach. These include H2 blocker and proton pump inhibitors.


Surgery may be needed if:

  • You have severe GERD symptoms that do not respond to other treatments.
  • The hernia is at risk for twisting and cutting off the blood supply to your stomach. This is an emergency and requires immediate surgery.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.