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You Asked: What Causes Side Stitch When Running?

Dear Fit,
Sometimes when I run, I get this twanging pain right below my rib cage. This side stitch aching is so uncomfortable that I have to stop running and wait for it to go away. What causes this pain and is there anything I can do to prevent it from happening in the first place?
— Stitched Up

I feel your pain and have also been sidelined by the awful stitch in my side. To find out what causes this sensation and how to prevent it


There's actually a very scientific explanation for the side stitch. Researchers believe it's caused when the ligament that attaches your liver to your diaphragm becomes overstretched. Breathing in and out heavily combined with the jarring motions of running can cause this pain, and actually those who exhale when their right foot hits the ground are more prone to side stitches. That's because 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 overstretched, and you're left with that sharp, nagging pain.

To prevent the dreaded side stitch, you can try concentrating on exhaling as your left foot hits the ground, but that may not feel natural to you. So focus on taking deep, even breaths as you run. When you exhale fully, the diaphragm can lower completely, which allows the ligament to relax. Also avoid eating one to two hours before a run, but make sure you've had water since dehydration can lead to muscle cramps.

If you're suffering from a side stitch in the middle of a run, slow down your pace and see if that helps. If not, stop completely and press your hand into the right side of your body and push up. This will lift your liver slightly and bring it closer to your diaphragm, so it's not overstretched. Once the pain goes away, feel free to jump back on the running wagon.


Join The Conversation
pyjammez pyjammez 8 years
Very interesting. I'll try it out.
brownsugamama brownsugamama 8 years
This type of info is why I love this site so much! Thanks.
smartiez smartiez 8 years
Wow, I would have never thought that's what those were caused by! Thank you for that information! :D
insanitypepper insanitypepper 8 years
I am highly prone to this. I can only avoid the stitches if I run first thing in the morning before eating anything.
sweetpeabrina sweetpeabrina 8 years
I think the stomach is on the left side so maybe it's from gas? Gasping can lead to swallowed air? Then it's trapped and uncomfortable? Just a guess. :)
Lo-Lo291303 Lo-Lo291303 8 years
Same with me - strictly left side.
rach1007 rach1007 8 years
I'm with kscincotta- I actually only get stitches on my left side. Is it still the same issue?
fleurfairy fleurfairy 8 years
These have been he bane of my existence since I was a kid. Glad to finally know the scientific explanation!
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 8 years
what also helped for me was to take deep breaths and hold it til I need another breath, and then let it out slowly with lots of control. it has always helped me get rid of cramps.
kscincotta kscincotta 8 years
I've this explanation before and it seems to make complete sense except for one niggling detail: I get stitches on my left side just as much as on my right side. Any thoughts?
Modus-Vivendi Modus-Vivendi 8 years
I used to get these. Breathing out on a left step helped as did not eating too close to a run.
JessaG JessaG 8 years
I get these too. I find that either pushing up into helps but so does putting my hands over my head. One thing I have noticed though, if it is windy out I am more likely to get them for some reason.
amandaaa amandaaa 8 years
i get this all the time!! my friend would tell me to push up and under my ribs to make it stop. thanks for the information, i had no idea!
margokhal margokhal 8 years
Oh WOW thanks for this! I was JUST about to make an appt. for the doctor because I had NO idea what was going on with my side! I just started trying to jog/run so I'm not used to muscle aches and things from moving too much...sometimes my ribcage muscle will spasm randomly and hurt just as if I was running. I've also heard that doing a side stretch will help prevent/alleviate side stitches, too.
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