If you’re a runner or have ever participated in any form of physical activity, you’ve likely experienced the dreaded side stitch, a sharp, stabbing pain usually felt on one side of the abdomen. It can be an unwelcome distraction during your run and can impact your performance. In this blog post, we will delve into the possible causes of side stitches when running, how to prevent them, and what to do if you experience one during a workout.
What is a Stitch?
A stitch, or exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), is a sudden, intense pain in the abdominal region that often occurs during exercise, particularly during running. The exact cause of a stitch remains a mystery, but researchers have identified several factors that may contribute to this uncomfortable sensation.
Possible Causes of a Stitch When Running
One theory suggests that a stitch occurs due to reduced blood flow to the diaphragm, the muscle responsible for controlling breathing. When running, the body requires more oxygen, increasing respiratory and heart rates. As the demand for blood flow to the muscles increases, the diaphragm may experience temporary ischemia, or a lack of oxygen-rich blood, resulting in pain.
Another possibility is that the pain is caused by friction between the organs in the abdominal cavity. During running, the internal organs bounce up and down, potentially causing irritation and discomfort. This theory is supported by the fact that stitches are more common in activities with more vertical movement, like running and jumping.
The pain could also be due to the strain on the ligaments that support the abdominal organs. As you run, these ligaments may stretch and tug on the diaphragm and other abdominal structures, causing pain.
Gastric factors may also play a role in causing a stitch. Consuming food or drink too close to a workout, especially if it’s high in fat or fiber, can contribute to the development of a side stitch. These substances take longer to digest and can cause stomach discomfort during exercise.
Improper breathing while running may contribute to side stitches. Shallow or irregular breaths can cause an imbalance in the diaphragm’s workload, leading to pain.
Preventing a Stitch of causes when running
A thorough warm-up increases blood flow to the muscles, including the diaphragm, potentially reducing the risk of ischemia. Spend at least 10 minutes on a dynamic warm-up before your run.
A strong core can help stabilize the torso and reduce the strain on the ligaments supporting the abdominal organs. Incorporate core exercises, such as planks and Russian twists, into your workout routine.
Practice deep, controlled breathing while running to ensure your diaphragm receives adequate oxygen. Try inhaling for two to four steps and exhaling for an equal number of steps to establish a rhythm.
Avoid consuming large meals or gas-producing foods before a run. Allow at least two hours between eating and exercising to give your body time to digest.
Maintain proper hydration before and during your run, but avoid chugging large amounts of water or sports drinks right before exercise, as this can cause gastric discomfort.
Managing a causes of Stitch During a Run
Reducing your pace can help alleviate the pain and give your body a chance to recover.
Take deep, slow breaths to help relax the diaphragm and ease the pain.
Gently press on the affected area
Gently press on the affected area and massage it to alleviate the pain and help relax the muscles.
Try bending forward, reaching towards the ground, or lifting the arm on the side of the stitch and gently stretching it overhead. These movements can help release tension in the diaphragm and surrounding muscles.
If you notice the stitch occurring on one side, try exhaling when the opposite foot strikes the ground. This can help distribute the load on the diaphragm more evenly and may reduce the pain.
While the exact cause of a side stitch remains uncertain, understanding the potential factors contributing to this discomfort can help you take preventive measures and better manage the pain during your runs. Remember to warm up properly, maintain a strong core, practice proper breathing techniques, and pay attention to your diet and hydration. By following these tips, you can minimize the occurrence of side stitches and focus on enjoying your run. Happy running!
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