I used to get side stitches more often when I was younger. Knock on wood, I haven’t had any lately. Here is some information about side stitches and how to handle them when you are on the run.
What exactly is a side stitch?
Believe it or not, there is actually a more scientific term for the side stitch: exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP). I like to refer to it as the potentially excruciating pain that can occur under your rib cage while running. Side stitches can range from mildly annoying to run-stopping.
A side stitch occurs as the result of a spasm in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle that separates your thoracic cavity from your abdominal cavity. When you inhale while running, the diaphragm is pushed downward (away from the abdominal cavity) as your lungs expand. When you exhale, the opposite occurs. This constant and repeated stretching of muscle and ligaments (which occurs at a faster pace during running) can cause pain.
How do you get rid of a side stitch?
- Stop running when you start feeling the pain of a side stitch. If for some reason you can’t stop, slow down.
- Focus on your breathing. Try to visualize your breathing as you take a deep breath in and then exhale. Think of something relaxing if you are having a hard time slowing your breathing down.
- If you are a runner who tends to exhale when your right foot hits the ground, try exhaling when your left foot lands. If you usually exhale on a left foot landing, try switching to an exhale as the right foot hits the ground.
How can you avoid getting a side stitch?
- Try not to ramp up the level of exertion too quickly in your training. For example, let yourself warm up before doing speed work or tempo runs.
- Be mindful of your breathing–you hear this a lot in yoga, but it works for running too! Make sure you continue to breathe in and out as deeply as you can.
- Try to avoid eating within an hour of beginning your run.
How do you get rid of a nasty side stitch?