Modern hernia surgery!
I haven't had one, but boy do I know a lot of guys who have. I have managed to avoid actually lifting anything heavier than my fork for many years, so I've been safe. Still, it is a fact of life that people get hernias, and men far more than women---inguinal hernias are the most common type, and a quarter of men (vs. 2% of women) will get one. A glance through any old general goods catalog from the late nineteenth century shows a plethora of trusses. Even a Sears catalog from 1934 (seen here, thanks to the Great Lileks) shows a mess o' trusses.
Back in the old days, before laparoscopic hernia repair, you got cut wide open to fix this bad boy. Before that, maybe you got leeches. I don't know. But you may certainly have gotten one of these, or something like it:
This is the Cluthe Truss, an improved type of truss---so say the five members of the Cluthe Rupture Institute, whose last names all coincidentally were Cluthe. The invaluable Gutenberg has posted Cluthe's Advice to the Ruptured, which reveals the state of care circa 1912.
"There have always been plenty of places where a ruptured man could go for a truss; surgical supply houses, truss manufacturers, truss dealers, drug-stores, etc. But at these places, though their intentions are good, the men who undertake to fit you have made no special study of rupture, and therefore can do little or nothing for you."
"And the trusses they give you, because not based on a scientific study of rupture, don't make proper provision for your requirements."
Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.
"The worst condition of rupture is the strangulated form. This is a condition where mortification has already set in. If an operation is not immediately resorted to, the sufferer will die."
Holy crap! I guess I'll have to go get cut open!
"Operation for rupture, for reasons stated below has never been much more than a life-or-death chance, even for those with a rugged constitution. Thousands of ruptured people have died under the surgeon's knife."
Double crap! Now what?
Well, you'll be happy to know the Cluthe Institute has the answer:
"Don't wait till the last minute—don't wait till your rupture makes you absolutely helpless—don't wait till good-for-nothing trusses cripple you up so you can scarcely drag around at all—don't wait till it's too late for a Cluthe Truss, an operation or anything else to save you."
Phew! I'll get one on the 60-day trial with the money-back guarantee!
I have no idea whether the Cluthe truss was any better than any other truss. Skimming the booklet makes me think they did put a lot of thought into it. But the problem is that a poorly fitted truss can actually make it more likely your hernia will become strangulated, and as the various Cluthes state accurately, a strangulated can cause death, and fairly quickly but oh so painfully, with gangrene and stuff. So treatment of hernias with trusses is not generally recommended anymore.
So, since we're still susceptible to hernias, man being born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, so we need be grateful for modern hernia care. Almost makes me think it might be safe for me to pick something heavier than my fork up again.