This Is What’s Really Happening When You Get A Stitch In Your Side

This Is What’s Really Happening When You Get A Stitch In Your Side

We’ve all been there, on a a bright sunny morning, after our healthy breakfast, ten minutes into our ten mile run.

All of a sudden your get that sharp pain in your side, and and you wonder whether somebody is stabbing you and trying to mug you for your running shoes.

Nope, it’s just a stitch.

If you’re anything like me anyway, you get it after taking too long to get ready in the morning and trying to choke down a danish while running for the bus. Even though you haven’t done any exercise in the last 15 years.

So whether you’ve done your stretches thoroughly and you’re ready for your run or you tear out of the house with your makeup half-done, we’ve all felt that horrible side pain.

Maybe you stop, and that horrible feeling in the bottom of your ribcage goes away. But then the second you start moving again the pain comes back!

Grrr! What the heck even is this pain and what is causing it?

Plus now everyone on the bus is staring at me!

Well did you ever have an ache or a pain in your body that didn’t have a name and a reason why happened?

Obviously a ‘stitch’ is just what people refer to this exercise-caused pain as. But really they’re muscle spasms of the diaphragm.

Okay, but did you know that even now, scientists still don’t know exactly what causes a stitch?

Mind blowing, right?

It’s because, as noted in a review article published in 2015, after the 1940s and 50s, there was almost a 50 year gap in research on stitches!

So perhaps we don’t know the exact cause, but there are some pretty good theories that make a lot of sense though.

One is that the diaphragm – the big muscle separating your chest cavity from your abdominal cavity which helps your lungs to inflate and deflate as you breathe – isn’t receiving enough blood when it contracts.

That kinda makes sense, and means a stitch is a lot like a cramp you might get in your leg. Y’know, if you were inclined to exercise and everything.

So just like a leg cramp, when there is not enough blood supply to the area, a spasm or a sharp pain will occur.

According to the latest research, about two-thirds of runners and walkers regularly experience a side stitch.

Okay so we can guess at what they are pretty well, but what can you do to treat it when it occurs?

1. Stop or slow down

If you get stitch, go with your instinct to stop or slow down! I mean, who the heck can keep on running with that going on anyway? Then  bend forward, and push your fingers into the painful area if you can. This will force your diaphragm to relax and ease the spasm you’re feeling, while increasing blood flow to the muscle.


2. Breathe deeply and exhale slowly

Most people start gasping for air when they get a stitch, so go with it! In order to allow blood to flow to your diaphragm, it needs to be relaxed, and breathing deeply will both relax it and increase blood flow.

3. Stretch your abdominal muscles

What do you do to an aching muscle? Stretch it of course! So when you feel a stitch coming on, stop and reach your arms over your head until the stitch goes away. Wait for a few minutes after it disappears before you get back to whatever it was you were doing. But you might have missed that dang bus by them.

They say prevention is better than cure, don’t they? Well, follow these simple steps to ensure you never get a side stitch again:

1. Don’t run soon after eating

So put that breakfast pastry down! If you find that stitches seem to occur after you’ve eaten, just try waiting a little before you go out and exercise. Pretty obvious, right?

2. Don’t exercise so long or so much

Especially if you’re just starting a new workout program, since stitches are more common for people who don’t exercise as much. It’s best to start off light and gradually increase the intensity of your workout.

3. Warm up

Say you’re a runner, start by stretching out your muscles, and then try a 10 minute light jog to get the blood flowing and the muscles moving before you begin your training regime.

4. Avoid shallow breathing

Although it can feel difficult to take deep breathes when you’re running, it doesn’t allow the diaphragm to descent far enough to relax properly.

5. Practice deep breathing exercises

The best way to avoid a stitch is to breathe properly. Try lying down on the floor, place your hand on your abdomen, and breathe in deeply. If only your chest moves up when you breathe and not your abdomen too, then you’re not breathing deeply enough!


6. Try ‘forced exhalation’

If you can’t get your deep breathing down, try forcing yourself to breathe deeply. While you’re running, purse your lips and pretend like you’re blowing out candles when you exhale. You’ll look like an idiot, but an idiot without a stitch!

7. Avoid drinking beverages high in carbs

You might think that drinking a sugary energy drink when you run is a good thing, but chances are it’s actually making you more dehydrated. The best thing to drink while you run is plain ol’ water.

Let us know if any of these techniques will come in useful for you with a COMMENT! If you enjoyed this article and think your family and friends would benefit from it too, feel free to SHARE it!