16304225 - schematic drawing of hiatal hernia

A sliding hiatal hernia is one of the causes or “contributors” to acid reflux. This is a mechanical compression of the upper part of the stomach that causes the valve between the stomach and the esophagus to open. This opening allows acid from the stomach to move into the esophagus, which causes burning and pain.

If the mechanical compression becomes strong, the stomach can get trapped (hernia) in the hiatus (hole) of the diaphragm. This is how it gets its name. A barium study with X-ray is the way to diagnoses this. Even though this type of case is rare, it is one that usually requires surgery.

Hiatal Hernia is also called the “Great Mimicker” because a patient with this condition may experience chest pain, reflux, heart disease, angina, asthma, high blood pressure, headaches, constipation and diarrhea. History tells us that this condition may be the cause of these health care problems and it is worth looking into.

A majority of the time, this condition is not as severe as the stomach becoming truly herniated.  In this case, the stomach is getting drawn up to the hiatus and is putting pressure on the valve that keeps the contents of the stomach from regurgitating into the esophagus. This valve is called the Lower Esophageal Valve (LES). This pressure can allow the valve to lose its seal and the acid can pass through.

People with this condition will find relief with anti- acids, prescription proton pump inhibitors, dietary changes and keeping their head elevated when they need to sleep.  These things can help, but if the valve is mechanically being pressed nothing can help except to take the pressure off.

Visceral manipulation, chiropractic and stress reduction are effective tools to treat the Hiatal Hernia. Visceral manipulation is a simple procedure where the physician and the patient work as a team to remove the tension in the stomach and diaphragm.  It is similar to body work, but the work centers on the organs and not the muscles.

Chiropractic adjustments help the nervous system better regulate the nerve impulses to decrease the tone of the organs.  It also helps to restore the skeletal frame and helps the ribs and diaphragm to settle correctly and give relief to the stomach.

Lifestyle advice such as diet, exercise and helping the body process emotions are also helpful. I have seen much success in my clinic, as well as with other practitioners using these techniques for long standing relief.