Why do you get a stitch when running?
Once a run is scheduled, we do our best to be fully prepared. That means proper warm-ups and preparatory exercises, loading on carbs beforehand and enjoying a light and easily-digestible breakfast before heading out. It looks like we’ve done everything right, but somewhere between kilometre 9 and 10, it happens. The dreaded side stitch that literally takes you out of the race.
There are different theories about what causes it, but dedicated runners swear by certain steps that prevent the side stitch from setting in or, at the very least, relieve the pain if it appears suddenly.
Eat a Proper Pre-Run Breakfast – One theory is that the food you consume before running has an impact on whether or not you get a stitch. Meals that are high in fibre and fat take longer to digest and can cause problems if eaten within an hour or two prior to a fun. Eat lightly and give yourself sufficient time to digest beforehand.
Warm Up – Going from sedentary to high speed can cause you to breathe heavily and unevenly, which many experienced runners reckon is another key cause of stitching. Warm up beforehand by two or three minutes of brisk walking, followed by an easy running pace, and then full workout mode. The quality of your run will increase while the likelihood of developing a stitch goes down.
Breathe Properly – Correct breathing technique during a run will decrease the likelihood of a stitch developing. Match your breathibg to your stride by inhaling for two or four strides and exhaling for the same distance. The more rapid your pace, the shorter your breathing should be: for example, one or two strides per inhale at a faster speed.
Slow Down and Exhale – If you do happen to get a side stitch, use this relief method employed by veteran runners. Slow your pace and exhale when the foot on the opposite side of the stitch touches the ground. Ensure that each outgoing breath is done in sync with the opposite foot hitting the earth. Changing the side of the landing forces in this manner will release the tension that caused the stitch.
Stop and Stretch – Small stretching exercises can help to relieve a persistent stitch. Slow down, stop, and lean your upper body to the side. Then stretch the area a little further with each exhale. To relax the diaphragm and abdomen, reach above your head while inhaling. Then lean forward while exhaling and just let your arms dangle.
If you experience side stitches on a chronic basis, scheduling an appointment with a chiropractor or physical therapist may be useful, as stitches have also been attributed to spinal dysfunction. Until then, experimenting with some of the techniques listed above to help you reduce the frequency and intensity of your side stitches.
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Whilst Enertor has over 18 years Orthotics experience, our blog content is provided for informational purposes only and it is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical advice. Enertor advises anyone with an injury to seek their own medical advice – and do not make any health or medical related decisions based solely on information found on this site