An inguinal hernia occurs when soft tissue — usually part of the membrane lining the abdominal cavity (omentum) or part of the intestine — protrudes through a weak point in the abdominal muscles. The resulting bulge can be painful, especially when you cough, bend over or lift a heavy object.
An inguinal hernia isn't necessarily dangerous by itself. It doesn't get better or go away on its own, however, and it can lead to life-threatening complications. For this reason, your doctor is likely to recommend surgery to fix an inguinal hernia that's painful or becoming larger. Inguinal hernia repair is a common surgical procedure.