Everyone has experienced the unwelcome side stitch when out on a run – your waist feels literally ‘stitched up’ in a cramp and as a result, breathing gets tougher and you just feel like stopping and taking a break.
A side stitch is the bane of any runner, whether they are new joggers or experienced ultra-marathoners! So it seems strange that in this modern world, surrounded by a raft of medical advice and treatments, scientists still aren’t entirely sure why this painful condition suddenly occurs whilst you’re doing your very best to stay fit, mid-run!
Some physiologists have suggested that the regular side stitch originates from the stomach, as other organs begin to bump into it as you’re running and making impact with the ground. Others believe that it may be caused when the ligament that attaches the diaphragm and liver becomes overly stretched. The argument will no doubt continue as to the exact cause and origination, but in the meantime, there are a number of practical solutions you can try to stop these pesky stitches in their tracks!
Practical steps for stitch prevention
As you’ll remember from the first pieces of running advice that you received, it’s never a good idea to run on a full stomach. This refers to both food and drinks. If you gulp down a pint of water immediately before your run, you are likely to experience a side stitch quite rapidly when running. Of course, it’s vital to stay adequately hydrated before and after a run, but this is best achieved by sipping a little water regularly, rather than overloading on drinks just beforehand.
Also, you need to stretch. If you fail to stretch before your run, or you do so incorrectly, you may be more inclined to experience the dreaded cramp. The experts can’t decide whether stretching before your run actually does prevent injuries from occurring, but it’s certainly worth getting in a gentle warm-up before your main workout event to cover all the bases.
Try to regulate your breathing. One of the most common mistakes of novice runners is to continue breathing high up in the upper chest. However, if you can learn to start breathing deeply, with your diaphragm, you’ll find this provides a natural defense against sharp stitches. This approach will help you to take in more oxygen and prevent the dizziness and occasional nausea that can lead to further shallow breathing and hyperventilating, all setting you up for that cramp. Those taking up nursing careers will learn all about breathing patterns and techniques, which are hugely helpful topics to become well acquainted with if you are serious about running.
Remember too that if you experience a stitch regularly and you’re new to exercise, you may simply be working out at too advanced a level for your current fitness. If you feel a side stitch whilst you are running, try slowing your pace right down and hold your breath for a few sections. That should help to slow down your breathing and calm it to a more manageable pace, preventing the temptation to gasp and stress your body, which means you start swallowing excess air. If that still doesn’t improve things, stop your run completely and push your hand into your right side, before pushing upwards. You should feel the pain pass away very quickly. Once it has done, you should be fine to start running again, but start at a slower pace and ease into it, rather than launching back into full pelt.
Author Bio: This guest post has been written and contributed by Zoe, a health blogger from the UK. She is writing on behalf of Nuffield Health Careers.