Many runners have experienced that searing jolt of pain under the ribs during periods of hard exercise. This agonizing pain is called a side stitch, and it is sometimes occurs together with a pain at the uppermost section of the shoulder on the same side.Deal with side stitches when running is to be consider as an important factor.

It is not clear what actually causes side stitches, but there are a number of theories that attempt to explain their source. The most plausible theory is that they are caused by poor circulation of the blood which in turn causes reduced supply of oxygen to the diaphragm. The diaphragm, a muscular sheet that runs across the bottom portion of the rib cage, has a very important role in the breathing process. The movement of the internal organs with each step causes body tension, which then leads to cramping in the diaphragm. Other factors that can trigger side stitches include poor breathing habits, nervousness, running at full speed too quickly, using an incorrect running style, running with a full stomach and having weak muscles in the abdominal area.

There are a number of effective strategies that one can use to deal with side stitches when running. These are:

1. Breathing deeply

Shallow breathing (also called chest breathing) results in reduced delivery of oxygen to the muscles, and this includes the diaphragm. This causes the muscles to be fatigued, which is a precursor to cramps. It is therefore vital for a runner to inhale and exhale fully in order to minimize the likelihood of getting side stitches. When one breathes deeply, the stomach rises and falls with each breath. Scientific research indicates that faster breathing enhances breathing depth. For better results when trying to practice deep breathing, runners are advised to inhale each time they take two steps and exhale as they take one step.

2. What and when to eat

What and when a runner drinks and eats before running can be the difference between getting side stitches or not. Blood is needed to help the digestive process, which means less blood flow to the diaphragm. Foods with a high fat and fiber content require a longer time to digest and should not be consumed one or two hours before running. This increases the chances of getting spasms in the diaphragm. It has been proved that beverages and fruit juices with high sugar content are a significant contributor to the occurrence of stitches.

3. Eating a light breakfast and healthy snacking

Health experts recommend that runners eat a light breakfast that contains little fiber and fat. This should be taken two or three hours before the start. However, one can still have a healthy power snack, for example bananas, to give an energy boost before the run starts.

4. Importance of a warm-up

Taking off and getting to full speed very fast is one of the easiest ways of getting side stitches and injuries. Just like any other body muscle, the diaphragm requires warming up so that it can function optimally. Runners are advised to practice breathing deeply to get the body and heart fired up properly. They can also walk briskly for a couple of minutes and then jog lightly before embarking on a rigorous workout.

5. Training the oblique muscles

According to research, runners with well-conditioned oblique muscles are less likely to have side stitches. Performing abs training for about 10 minutes each day is enough to achieve this.

6. Increasing speed gradually

It is important that runners start slowly before increasing their speed. Suffering from a side stitch is a sign that a person’s body cannot handle the running exercise.

7. Using belly breathing exercises

Belly breathing exercises can help runners breathe deeply and properly using their diaphragm instead of the chest muscles. Using an object such as a small bag of grain or a phone book, they can allow the weight of the object to help push air out of the lungs.

8. Switching the stride-breathing pattern

A lot of runners take one breath for every two strides. Subconsciously, they also time their exhalations to coincide with either their left or right leg landing on the ground. Switching the timing of exhalation from one side to the other may reduce the likelihood of suffering from side stitches.

9. Changing the running schedule

Runners are often stubborn when it comes to their bodies, in the hope that problems will disappear when they keep going on. However, it is prudent to change what is not working. Minimizing the risk of side stitches can sometimes be solved by simply altering the time of the work-out. For example, one can change from running during the afternoon after taking lunch and instead do it in the morning hours when there may be less stress and other irritants.

10. Strengthening the core

It is recommended that runners train their core muscles which in turn strengthens their diaphragm muscles. Doing this means that they are less susceptible to fatigue or cramp, and it allows for longer and deeper breathing. When the core is well-trained, rotational movements in the runner’s body trunk are reduced and the internal organs are better supported. Side stitches are more prevalent in sports that involve extensive use of the upper body like swimming, riding on horseback and running.

One method that a runner can use to strengthen their core is participating in such exercises as donkey kicks or planks for ten minutes, thrice a week. Doing yoga or Pilates are another way of strengthening the diaphragm muscles and making them less prone to fatigue and cramping. Having a strong trunk makes a runner more efficient and helps to prevent injuries.

Techniques of dealing with a side stitch:

Sometimes a side stitch may occur even after a runner has observed the precautions. There are a several techniques that can help to stop it quickly. The first thing is slowing down the pace of running. Stretching exercises can help alleviate the tension. The runner can lean their upper body, exhaling as they stretch further. Another useful technique is to try to bend the upper body in a forward direction. Relaxation of the chest and abdominal cavity can then be achieved by raising the arms over the head while breathing in and leaning forward while breathing out.

Whether one is a novice or an experienced runner, getting side stitches is an agonizing experience. To prevent stitches, runners are advised to keep on running. This is because it trains the diaphragm muscles which leads to better endurance. Ultimately, a runner with increased endurance is less likely to suffer from side stitches.

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