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Stitch In the Side Explained

Do you ever get the annoying and painful stitch in your side when you are running? I do and I really don't like the sensation and went looking for a "cure."

It seems that there was no good explanation for the phenomenon until recently, and before that it was just referred to as exercise related transient abdominal pain (ETAP). How's that for vague? The pain is caused when the ligament that attaches your liver to your diaphragm gets stretched. Most runners tend to exhale every 2 to 4 step and those that exhale with stepping on the right foot tend to be the ones who suffer from the stitch. When the right foot hits the ground it pulls the liver down and the exhale is simultaneously forcing the diaphragm up, so the ligament gets over stretched, and that causes the pain.

To cure the pain, stop running immediately, reach your fingers into the right side of your belly and push your liver up. Breathe in and out evenly as you do this. Hopefully you can return to running with no pain.

Fit's Tip: To avoid getting the stitch in the first place, focus on taking deep breaths while running since short and shallow breaths tend to make the diaphragm spasm.

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Join The Conversation
Bill-WILLIAMS Bill-WILLIAMS 7 years
I get stitch if i laugh to much also if i get very cold. Does anybody else suffer this.
krisua krisua 8 years
Oho, a very useful article! Thanks!
krisua krisua 8 years
Oho, a very useful article! Thanks!
workinggirl83 workinggirl83 8 years
I have just begun running as a means of exercise and have been having this problem a lot lately. Thanks fit!
quietriott quietriott 8 years
i totally used to do the exhale on left foot thing when i was in cross country! it definitely helps and keeps your mind off the cramp.
Jinx Jinx 8 years
Cool, thanks Shi. ------------------------------------------------------ "We're forced to bed, But we're free to dream" Gord Downie
kscincotta kscincotta 8 years
Wow, that's fascinating. I always get stiches when I run and now that I think about it, when I get myself into a running rythmn, I am ALWAYS exhaling every other time I plant my right foot. Now that I know this, I'll have to make a concentrated effort to breath on my left foot. Thanks, Fit!
Michelle-StG Michelle-StG 8 years
Like Jinx said, if you bend down and tuck your knees into your chest, your cramp will go away. Immediately. No kidding. I don't know where my liver is so I do this :) Runners World did some research that showed that bikers rarely get stitches and they developed the theory that if you bring your knees in to your chest (like bikers) it will cure the cramp.
YaoMing YaoMing 8 years
OMG - I thought I was the only one to get this. I totally did this when I was in junior high running laps. VINDICATED!
wannabesocialite wannabesocialite 8 years
i do not want to push my liver. that sounds scary! i usually just run/walk it off
Beaner Beaner 8 years
I put my arms in the air and stretch out my torso and it really helps. I learned that from my cross-country coach.
Jinx Jinx 8 years
I once saw someone tell someone with a stitch to walk around and find a flat round stone. They said that the bending helped and the searching got thier mind off it. :) ------------------------------------------------------ "We're forced to bed, But we're free to dream" Gord Downie
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