You’re out running, burning calories and enjoying the sunshine when suddenly you experience a cramp or stitch in your side so sever that you must stop and recover.
This “stitch” is an Exercise Related Abdominal Pain or ETAP caused by a muscular cramp in your diaphragm, that flat muscle between your lungs and your abdominal organs. During exercise, especially running, the organs below the diaphragm push up against it as your lungs press down on your diaphragm, reducing blood flow and causing the cramp.
The stitch is made worse by shallow or improper breathing, by trying to sustain a level of physical activity you’re not quite ready for, or by eating (or drinking) a large amount before you exercise.
For immediate relief out on the track or sidewalk, place two fingers on the point of pain, usually your right side just below your ribs. Press upward under your ribs as you exhale forcefully. Now raise your arms above your head as you inhale and lower your arms as you exhale. Repeat several times until the pain subsides.
To Prevent Future Stitches
- Avoid dairy products and fatty foods that are difficult to digest and don’t eat too closely to your training time.
- Don’t skip your warm up. If you jog or run, start slowly and gradually increase your speed but don’t attempt to train at a speed or intensity your body isn’t ready for.
- Drink water and stay hydrated. Drink 8 – 16 ounces of water about 30 minutes prior to your training.
- Focus on your breathing. Take longer, deeper breaths to reduce your risk of side stitches. Short and choppy breathing stresses the diaphragm leading to more cramps. Regulate and control your breathing and you will soon be inhaling and exhaling in rhythm with your stride.
- Don’t try to run through the stitch, stop or slow to a walk as you use your pressure point and arm raising technique to treat the cramp until the stitch subsides.
- Resume exercise gradually. Start slowly again and increase speed and intensity until you have matched your previous pace, if the stitch returns, repeat the process.
Stand Up Straight
Posture plays a role in cramps and side stitches, improving your posture and strengthening your abdominals and core will firmly support your internal organs and relieve pressure on the diaphragm.
Running Is The Best Cure
As you continue to run your cardiorespiratory endurance will increase, you will breath more easily and decrease the occurrence of painful side stitches.