4 steps to getting rid of a side stitch

There’s no better way to ruin a great run than with a sudden, painful side stitch. If you’ve ever had a run go south thanks to a side stitch, you’re not alone: some research suggests up to 70 per cent of runners experience the painful cramp every year. The good news is, a side stitch doesn’t have to end your run. The next time one happens to you, follow these four steps to get rid of it.

What causes a side stitch?

Unfortunately, researchers and medical professionals still aren’t sure exactly what causes that stabbing pain in the side of your abdomen. Potential causes include everything from muscle spasms, to stress on your spine from the natural rotation of your trunk as you run, to irritation of your parietal peritoneum, a thin membrane that lines the abdominal and pelvic cavities. Of course, it could simply be you ate the wrong thing before heading out for your run, or you went too hard without a proper warmup.

How to get rid of a side stitch

Side stitches can happen to anyone and while they can be painful, they shouldn’t be run-ending. Follow these four simple steps next time a side stitch hits.

Slow down. When you get a side stitch, you don’t want to stop completely. Instead, slow down to a light jog or even a walk to get your breathing under control.

Breath from your belly. Shallow or chest breathing can cause a side stitch, so focus on belly or diaphragmatic breathing instead. Take a few deep breaths, making sure you’re expanding your stomach fully as you breathe in, to help relieve the pain.

Stretch. Stretch your arms overhead, then lean away from the side the stitch is on to stretch out your abdomen. Hold this for 20-30 seconds, and repeat as necessary.

Apply pressure. This works especially well if you do it as soon as you feel the stitch coming on. As you’re walking and taking deep belly breaths, use your hand to apply pressure to the painful area. Each time you exhale, push a little deeper. You may have to do this a few times, but it should eventually cause the discomfort to dissipate.

posted Monday January 10th
by Running Magazine