How to Control Side Stitches while Running
From beginners to professionals, on treadmills or in outdoors, runners are prone to meet one of the most daunting and annoying pains. The side stitch, or the transient abdominal pain as it is scientifically called is the culprit for many running workouts failures.
Long story short, a side stitch is an intense side ache that occurs while running. I believe every runner, amateur or professional, has encountered this kind of pain in his/ her beginning days. The bad part of stitches is that they cause crucial pain. The good thing about it is that you get to prevent them from happening. This kind of pain is related to abdominal ligaments and muscles. It is caused either by a spasm of the diaphragm, the muscle that divides abdominal organs from the heart and lungs or by the connection between the liver and the diaphragm. What happens is that running favors pressure on the right side. This pressure is caused by the ligaments that connect the liver to the diaphragm. The liver tends to pull down the diaphragm, while the natural movement of the muscle is upwards. And this is where the pressure comes in.
One other factor that may get you a side stitch is drinking and eating prior to running. Drinking excessively before you run may lead to side stitches. Make sure you don’t dehydrate yourself. Drink as much as you need, just make sure you don’t overdo it before workout. On my workout days I start drinking early in the morning, so that I keep my body properly hydrated. Sports drinks are recommended. It’s the same with food. It’s important to eat light 3 hours before running and to not eat at all 1 hour before.
Now, you may be wondering what you can do in order to stay as far as you can from the stitch. It’s not that difficult, it just requires your close attention. First off, breathing. You must get the proper oxygen intake. Exercise belly breathing and practice it during your run.
Secondly, make sure you hydrate yourself as much as your body needs, without making any excess. Eat light prior to running. Energy boosters are great for fat-burning and they also ease digestion during running.
Thirdly, it’s highly important to stretch thoroughly before and after running. If you don’t, muscles will contract and give you cramps, such as side stitches.
Last but not least, don’t be a daredevil if you can’t handle it. It’s usually the case when runners get side stitches because they think they can run 2 times faster than the day before, but it’s almost never the case. If you’re running and a stitch strikes you, try to control it by breathing. Take deep breaths and once in a while inhale and exhale forcibly. Exhale when your left foot strikes the ground. This usually lowers the tension on the right side.
If the pain gets worse, expands to the left side and to the shoulders, stop for a few seconds. Try to apply pressure on the right side of the abdomen. This way you’ll push the liver up so that the tension slowly fades. Then do some bending exercise. Touch your right foot with your left hand, and the other way around for a few times. Keep your knees straight. After this short pause you can resume running.
And don’t forget that if the pain doesn’t disappear after ending the workout, you should consult your physician. Heart related problems may also be a cause of left side pains.