How to Prevent and Get Rid of Side Stitches

Side stitches are quite possibly one of the biggest hindrances (aside from blisters, headaches etc.) to running well.  The mysterious cause of stitches still remains unknown, however, there are a few practices that you can implement that can help prevent and get rid of this common condition.

The most likely cause

Scientists hypothesize that the cause of stitches is linked to the diaphragm, a muscle that can become overexerted when running. This condition usually attacks new runners that haven’t developed their technique properly but can also happen to more experienced runners as they increase their running tempo too quickly. 

Another cause could also be linked to weak core muscles as weaker core muscles aren’t able to withstand the high impact that we experience when running. 

How to Prevent them

  • Exercise your core muscles

Strengthen your core by doing exercises such as planking or yoga multiple times a week. A strong core can also improve your balance when running which can be really helpful for trail runners in particular. 

  • Eat right

Foods high in sugar, fat and fibre can cause stitches as the latter simply take longer to digest. This can have a negative knock-on effect on the diaphragm so be sure to be extra conscious of what you eat before a run. 

  • Allow for an adequate warm-up time

A rapid and irregular increase in your breathing rate can cause the movement of the diagram to move more erratically which can lead to a stitch. Rather increase your pace gradually to prevent this from occurring. 

  • Make sure you are breathing deeply and evenly

By following the general rule of two breaths in and one breath out, this will help you breathe more deeply, allowing for more oxygen to reach your working muscles including your diaphragm.  This can also be applied to when you are actually experiencing a stitch and want to make it go away as fast as possible. Reducing your pace slowly and gradually can also help with this. 

Experiencing a painful stitch is something that all runners will experience at one stage or another. There are coping mechanisms available, however, that will make this annoying condition more bearable.

As with most issues that are running-related, ensuring that you are equipped with helpful tips on how to combat this is key to avoid and prevent a stitch from developing and ruining a potentially great run. 

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