We’ve all felt that sharp pain in our sides as we’ve sprinted to catch the bus or as we’ve pushed ourselves in a race. It can stop us in our tracks and have us bent in half waiting for it to pass. So, what is a side stitch? Why do they happen and how can we prevent them?
To be honest, the reasons for side-stitches are unknown. In fact, the medical term “exercise-related transient abdominal pain” suggests the vagueness of our understanding of side stitches. Are they related to food? Breath? Blood flow? Scientists aren’t sure. They could be caused by an overworked diaphragm, or they may not be.
However, if you do get side stitches or cramps a lot, there are things you can do that might help prevent and/or relieve them.
1. Pay attention to what you eat. Keep track of what you’ve eaten on runs where you get a side stitch. Experiment to find fuel that keeps you running, not doubled over in pain.
2. Ease into your run. A solid warm-up can give your body time to adjust to the effort and avoid sudden pain.
3. Stand up straight. Studies suggest that people who hunch their shoulders or slouch are more prone to side stitches.
4. If you do get a side stitch, stop and take a few deep breaths all the way down through your abdomen. A few of those should lessen the pain and have you back on your way in a flash.