Why working out or running can be a pain in your side. Ever started jogging or in the middle of a HITT workout to be stopped dead in the track with an unbearable side pain? Ah, the oh so common Side Stitch. I remember those a lot in high school during practice or PE. Suppose you’ve ever felt that pain, commonly know as a side stitch or medically known as Exercise-Related Transient Abdominal Pain (ETAP). In that case, you know just how irritating that pain can feel during working out. (1) (2)
So, what is a side stitch? A side stitch is localized pain to one side of the abdomen, just below the rib cage. The pain can feel like a cramp, sharp pain, or a dull ache.
What Causes a Side Stitch during Exercise? Many causes or unknown causes create a side stitch to come on, but the following can usually bring on the side pain.
- Drinking Sugary drinks before exercise has been known to increases the likelihood of stitches.
- Going for a run too soon after eating.
- Eating a heavy high fat, a lot of liquids, or high fiber meal 3 hours before working out.
- Not practicing good posture.
- Not warming up before a run: Runners sometimes report that they seem more likely to get a side stitch if they start running without warming up.
- Increasing intensity or length too fast or too quickly
- Shallow breathing: Make sure to breathe correctly while running.
- Your core is weak. Strengthening your core can strengthen weak diaphragm muscles, making them more resilient to fatigue and less likely to cramp. (3)
How to Reduce the Pain
- If you’re running, take a break or slow down to a walk.
- Breathe deeply and exhale slowly.
- Stretch your abdominal muscles by reaching one hand overhead. Try bending gently into the side where you feel the stitch.
- Stop moving and try pressing your fingers gently into the affected area while you bend your torso slightly forward.
- Stay hydrated while exercising.
- Make sure to warm-up before any exercise.
If you get a side stitch, it will usually disappear on its own when you stop exercising or a few minutes or hours later.
If you are experiencing side pain during a run, jog, or intense workouts, experiment with some of the techniques listed above to help you get over your side stitches.
Always contact your physician before performing in type of exercise or nutrition program.