The Runner’s Side Stitch…What is it and How do you get rid of it?

How many times have you or someone you know have come up with this mysterious pain in the side while running?

And how many times have you taken a “stab” at trying to diagnosis and get rid of it?


The “side stitch” is a muscle spasm of the diaphragm. The jouncing up and down of the internal organs during running causes a pulling down and subsequent straining of the diaphragm as it moves up while exhaling.

Well, there seems to be several theories that might convince you that there is a definitive explanation, and the majority of the research states that it has a lot to do with what you eat before you exercise.

So, if you were to look at the “eating” or “drinking” aspect as it relates to the “side stitch”, one study in particular found that fruit juices/beverages high in carbohydrates especially in a concentrated form just before or during running triggered the onset of a stitch.

But, there is a theory that states it has something to do with the breathing, in particular shallow breathing.

This type of breathing tends to increase the risk of a stitch, based on the fact that the diaphragm is always in a slightly raised state and never lowers far enough to allow the ligaments to relax.

side stitch when running_2

So, here are some ways to get rid of it:

• Slow down your running pace.

• Try avoiding running downhill.

• Try to exhale while running as the left foot strikes the ground. The organs on the left side that are attached to the diaphragm are not as big as those on the right, so this could lead to less strain on the diaphragm.

• Avoid drinking the highly concentrated forms of fruit juices and/or beverages.

• Time your pre-run/race meal to allow it to digest properly prior to the start by at least two hours.

• Massage or press on the area where the pain in emanating from. Bend forward to stretch the diaphragm and ease the pain.

• Raise your right arm straight up and lean toward the left. Hold for thirty seconds, release, and then stretch the other side. This may relieve the pain altogether.

• If you continue to experience pain, then go see your doctor. Now with this background information and ideas on what causes it and how to get rid of the dreaded “side stitch”, you can be proactive in helping yourself and others!

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