Running Stitch
"What You Need to Know about Side Stitches

running stitchThe running stitch, also commonly known as side stitches, can be a runner's biggest enemy.

A side stitch is often described as a sharp, piercing pain under the ribcage that affects a person in times of strenuous physical activities, such as running.

So what's the culprit behind the side stitch?

Running Stitch: What Causes It?

Theories :

  • diafragm muscle as cause of running stitch
  • ligament pain

Understanding the cause of the side stitch will help you understand how to avoid it. The pain that characterizes the running stitch is probably caused by a muscle spasm in the diaphragm. It occurs when the runner do not follow good pacing and breathing while running. The way you breathe is closely connected to this condition.

Your breathing follows a certain pattern, which begins when you inhale air. The inhaled air goes into the lungs, and the diaphragm is pressed downward. Then it releases upwards again the moment you exhale. However, this is work as any other muscle has to deal with and if this work causes "overload" you have the most probably cause of side stitches.

Some theories also claim that the stitch can also be caused by stress that sudden, aggressive movements place on the ligaments connecting the diaphragm to the abdominal organs.

But this theory is not very likely to be true since stitches also affect athletes, such as swimmers, who do not experience sudden movements.

Who's in Danger of the Running Stitch?

Since the cause of the big stitch is not related to fitness, age, or any other demographic matters, anyone can suffer from this, not just inexperienced runners but even those who've been running for years, although it tends to happen more often in younger runners.You will also be more vulnerable to this condition if you eat or drink closely before you go into activity.

Drinking is essential to every runner, but if you drink carbonated drinks, you're setting yourself up for the strike of the side stitch. However, side stitches tend to be more common in running venues with cold temperatures.

How to Treat the Running Stitch

The side stitch is actually just like any muscle cramp, so the best way to treat it is to give the muscle air and space to stretch freely. The best immediate alleviation of the pain is to stretch your diaphragm area and do breathing exercises.

Once you experience the sharp pain brought by a running stitch, you have to immediately take a deep breath to reverse the actions of the diaphragm and push it down.

Then, you have to exhale forcefully. You can also bend your body forward to more easily release air from your body. Manual pressure on where the pain strikes is also an effective way to ease the pain. It will also go away more quickly if you stop running for a short while and do brief breathing exercises. Then, keep on doing breathing exercises until the pain is gone.

But if you experience a running stitch while in a race and stopping is impossible, you can modify your breathing and stride while running. This will help ease the cramps and remove the pain.

Don't Let a Running Stitch Keep You from the Finish Line

Running stitches can be avoided by developing a good pacing strategy and good breathing. When running, it is easy to be preoccupied with your speed and your opponents and plenty of other factors that you may forget the importance of proper breathing and start breathing shallow. To avoid the running stitch, give some attention to how you breathe.

The ideal breathing strategy is to take deep and full breaths for full inhaling and exhaling function. Some studies also showed that a breathing pattern synchronized with the pattern of a runner's strides makes for a more stable and relaxed diaphragm movement, which protects you from side stitches.

Aside from that, you can also prevent side stitches by warming up properly before you run. This will help tune your breathing pattern in to a certain level of activity, which makes it more natural for you to breathe correctly.

Running too soon after eating may also cause side stitches, so you should allow at least one hour to pass after eating before you take on any physical activity. As you become a more experienced runner, you will also find proper running and breathing techniques easier to master and maintain.

Good luck with overcoming the stresses of the running stitch!


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