Running, Workouts

What causes a stitch?

Have you been out on a run and all of a sudden experienced a sharp stabbing pain just under your ribs? Normally on either side…

If so then you’ve suffered from a stitch or often referred to as a side-stitch. But what causes a stitch?

When I first started running I used to get them all the time and it would really frustrate me as I would have to slow down to try and recover which would affect my times.

Despite being a very common issue for runners it is still not fully known what the exact trigger is for this pain but there are a number of theories.

What causesĀ a stitch?

The first theory is that a stitch is caused by blood moving away from your diaphragm during exercise to go to your limbs and this reduction of blood flow to the diaphragm causes it to cramp up.

Whilst this theory has some consideration it does not explain why it does not happen every time I exercise, so I am not sure this is the main cause.

Another theory that is often cited is that a stitch can be caused by eating a large meal or by drinking concentrated sugary drinks like fruit juices too close to the start of your run.

This second theory is one that appears to ring true for me and since I have been a lot more careful about what I eat and drink before my runs I rarely encounter a stitch.

How to avoid a stitch?

For me there are four pieces of advice I can give that have helped me to avoid getting a stitch when out running:

  1. Warm up properly. I was always guilty of putting on my running gear and heading out the door without any form of warm-up and this likely caused me some problems. I now do 5 minutes of stretches and jogging on the spot to warm up my body for my run.
  2. Avoid eating and drinking close to your run. I am now more careful around what I eat and drink within two hours of my run. I consume less volume of water in the two hours prior to my run and have no big meals. I have also cut out all sugary drinks.
  3. Get fitter. I know this is not something you can do overnight but I have found that the fitter I am the less likely I am to get a stitch.
  4. Improve your core. As part of your daily routine try and throw in a few exercises that help to strengthen your core. Not only will they help with stitches it should always help improve your running. Why not do a plank every day for 60 seconds.

Treating a stitch?

If you are out on a run an encounter a stitch you will normally find that it will go away within 1-2 minutes.

It is a go idea to slow down a little when the stitch hits to give your body a chance to heal. I also recommend that you stop running completely for 10 secs and bend over and touch your toes 3 times… This works really well for me.

Many people try and continue to run off a stitch and you need to find the method that works best for you, I find stopping for a few seconds to bend forward and touch my toes means I can continue back to my normal pace more quickly, losing less time on my run.

Have you encountered a stitch whilst running? How did you overcome it? Do you have any secrets for avoiding a stitch? Did you work out what causes a stitch?

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