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How to Prevent a Side Stitch When Running

Side Stitch: What Causes It and How to Prevent It

Whether you're a newbie or an accomplished marathoner, side stitches happen. With all of the research we have available, it sounds strange, but we're still not exactly sure why this pain in the rib cage occurs. Some physiologists have theorized that the common side stitch comes from your stomach and other organs bumping into each other as your feet hit the ground. And others speculate it happens when the ligament that attaches your liver to your diaphragm becomes overstretched. We can't shift the science that occurs in our bodies, but there are some steps to prevent those pesky cramps.

Don't fill up: Running on a full stomach is never a good idea. And this doesn't just refer to a big meal; it goes for water as well. Staying hydrated is absolutely necessary, but overloading on H2O or a sports drink right before you head off can lead to bad cramps.

Stretch appropriately: Improper or lack of stretching may be linked to annoying side pains that cramp your style. While the verdict is still out on whether stretching before a run prevents injury, get in an active running warmup to cover all your bases.


Breathe deeper: Learning to breathe with your diaphragm can be some of your best defense against cramps. If you're not sure where to start, take our tips and learn to breathe correctly when you run.

If you're suffering from a side stitch in the middle of a run, slow down your pace and your breath. If that doesn't help, stop completely and press your hand into the right side of your body and push up. Once the pain goes away, feel free to jump back on the running wagon. Have you dealt with the side-stitch dilemma? What's worked for you?

Related: The Best Belly-Fat-Fighting Interval Workout For Beginners

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Glen Giffen
Tom14826154 Tom14826154 4 years
I just got a stitch, happens pretty rarely. Think it is because I drank water before hand and there was a chill in the air. I find the best thing to do is just slow down and breathe through your nose.
Cecilia14823203 Cecilia14823203 4 years
I get side-stitches quite a lot. EIther high up (the one that's said to be caused by the livers ligaments) or deep down on the right side. And for both, the most effective quick-fix is to lay down flat on the ground, on your back. Complete and immediate relief! But very difficult during the winter months, with the cold wet snow:)
luv2run1013 luv2run1013 4 years
I make sure to hydrate enough at least an hour before a run.
Shagufta3054960 Shagufta3054960 5 years
so do you\u00a0exhale when your right foot hits the ground or do\u00a0exhale as your left foot hits the ground.ugh i'm so\u00a0confused.\u00a0
fitness-health fitness-health 5 years
You also try something called belly breathing and you can do this by pushing out the stomach and inhaling at the same time, when exhaling relax the stomach muscles and draw in towards the body.
Vsugar Vsugar 7 years
Um... I'm totally confused by this article. When you exhale, your diaphragm actually rises - that's what allows the breath to leave your lungs. When you inhale, the diaphragm lowers - this is what creates the vacuum that allows air to rush into your lungs. Do they have this backwards?? Am I missing something?
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 7 years
I used to get this often in school while in gym class, mid-run during my poor attempt at kickball or even playing tag. Finally my doctor described what I was dealing with ( I was terrified that I had something severely wrong.) I still get it the "stitch"; even walking through stores for a prolonged amount of time can start it up. Annoying. I do find exhaling on my left foot helps some and when it acts up, I sit down and bring my knees to my chest which relieves the tension on the muscle/tendon. If out in public I do the technique of placing pressure on the right side. (Do not want to be seen sitting on a store floor in what seems to be the fetal position,lol.)
zeze zeze 7 years
These are horrible for me, when I run or even when I dance, weird enough though, it gets much worse when I drink water...if I haven't had water in a while Im usually fine for a bit longer.
genipher85 genipher85 7 years
I get this a lot. But I have a high pain tolerance so I just keep going and eventually it goes away.
GirlOverboard GirlOverboard 7 years
This is good to know! One of the major reasons I've never been a runner is the dreaded stitch - especially because for me, the pain actually goes as far north as my shoulder. I have a long-time ongoing problem with my shoulder that I've never had diagnosed and when I'm running, the combination of the swinging arm movements and breathing cause it to tighten up and hurt something fierce... then if I get an actual stitch, it's game over for me. I'll need to keep all of this stuff in mind since I've finally decided it's time to stop being scared of running. :]
le-romantique le-romantique 7 years
The problem with this annoying pain is that it actually makes me run faster because I get that whole "I'M NOT GIVING UP" mentality, although it doesn't really help for the pain.
Marshmelly411 Marshmelly411 7 years
Aah its crazy that this is just being posted today because I suffered a terrible side stitch last night while on the treadmill. It ruined my whole workout and I ended up walking for half of it (it wouldn't go away! lol). I seem to be prone to these, and have made it a point to warm up well and take deep breaths (I can't do the breath on the left foot breathing is too slow). Gonna try drinking more water before I work out..I usually don't and that may be part of the problem.
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