Woman running on beachThe running experience can be ruined almost immediately by side stitches, which can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. It can only take a matter of seconds for the pain to increase and the run may need to be stopped. For this reason it is important to know how to get rid of side stitches.

What Is A Side Stitch?

Side stitches mostly occur on the left side of the body although they do sometimes occur on the right side. It occurs below the ribs. On some occasions the pain is so intense that the runner has to stop their workout.

Causes of Side Stitches

Stitches are known to occur during running and sometimes walking, and although there is no definite medical explanation for their cause, there are a number of theories.

People who are new to running may suffer with stitches more because their breathing is more likely to be rapid and shallow. The diaphragm is not fully engaged and relaxed when breathing is rapid and this causes the ligaments to forcefully contract.

It is also believed that rapid breathing alongside the jolting that is experienced when running as the right foot touches the ground can be a cause. This puts additional strain on the ligaments that are found near the diaphragm and the liver. The pain that this causes is felt on the left side of the body.

It is also thought that side stitches can be caused by running too soon after eating a meal. Carbonated drinks that have a lot of sugar can also be a cause of stitches. Even if you’re following a low carb low fat diet, you should wait two hours after a meal. Pain is felt because the food and drink have not completely passed through the digestive system.

Another theory is that if a runner does not warm up properly and starts their run by running too fast then stitches may occur.

How to Avoid Side Stitches

The first step in preventing stitches, if a person experiences them often, is to ensure that they do not eat a meal or even a snack within one or two hours of starting their run. Water can be drank but only in small amounts and sports or carbonated drinks should be avoided. Water is a better choice than these types of drinks when running, especially if the weather is warm.

Deep breathing in a rhythmic manner can also prevent side stitches. Breathing is less likely to be rapid if the breathing cycles are smooth and slow. Proper posture is also needed when breathing in and out fully.

A good posture can also prevent stitches because it will ensure that the muscles are not being squeezed. A good posture for running is to have arms at 90 degree angles at the sides, the chest should be up and open to allow for easy breathing and the back should be kept straight and not hunched over.

How to Get Rid of Side Stitches

It’s possible to get rid of side stitches even while they are happening. You can continue running and press the side of the body where the pain occurs. Press firmly and take deep breaths. It is important to try and keep a good posture while doing this in order to prevent the stitch getting worse, although this may be difficult.

The pain of a stitch should be eliminated when the muscles are massaged and breathing is slow and even-paced.

6 Thoughts on “How To Get Rid Of Side Stitches

  1. Leonardo on April 1, 2021 at 2:59 pm said:

    It’s true running gives me a true shot of endorphins! As good as any stimulant and good for you too. Goodbye coffee, hello running 🙂

  2. Rita on July 2, 2016 at 8:18 am said:

    I am doing couch to 5K and I love it. There is nothing in the world like running 🙂

  3. Emily on April 26, 2016 at 1:05 am said:

    Hello my name is Emily and I have been running for a couple years and now suddenly I get a pain in my side but it is not a stitch, it is higher up. Do you know what it could be?

    • Jukola on May 20, 2016 at 5:08 pm said:

      Emily, no, you should see a doctor about that. Not to scare you, I would say the same to any medical question. It is not possible to diagnose anything over the internet, even if I was a doctor which I am not.

  4. Lindsey on October 19, 2015 at 12:48 pm said:

    I hate when i get side stitches. It seems such a stupid reason to have to stop running. This sounds like good advice, thank you.

  5. Louellen on December 3, 2014 at 2:33 am said:

    I never knew breathing was important for stopping a stitch. Can’t wait to try it.

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