How to Prevent those Awful Side Stitches

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If you experience side stitches, it doesn’t have to mean you’re an inexperienced runner. It happens to everyone occasionally, and it is still not completely clear why this strange pain in your rib cage happens when you are running. Some doctors think that it happens because when you run your stomach and other organs crash into each other with every step you make. Others think that the ligament that connects the liver and diaphragm stretches too much in the process so it causes such pain. Dr. Lewis Maharam, who also works as a writer for Runner’s World, says that side stitches happen because of the force of the impact of legs hitting the ground which puts pressure on the diaphragm from below, while short fast breaths expand the lungs and pressure the diaphragm from above. This, according to Dr. Maharam, prevents the natural flow of blood and oxygen, which brings us to cramping, pain and discomfort.

However, there is no real scientific evidence, only speculations, and it is still unclear why this pain occurs. But the ways to prevent it are clear and available, so now we will share them with you.

Avoid eating right before going for a run. When you run on a full stomach it can bring you discomfort while running, side stitches and sometimes even nausea. Not to mention eating big portions. If you ate a lot and are planning to go out to burn those extra calories, better wait for a couple of hours. Drinking lots of water right before a run is also a no-no if you don’t want to experience those awful side stitches. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink at all. Drinking water in moderate quantities before, during, and after your run is very important to keep you hydrated, but don’t drink too much.


Take deep breaths and breathe from your diaphragm. If you don’t breathe properly, running will be more difficult than it needs to be. On the other hand, when you breathe right, from the diaphragm, you can prevent cramps in your abdominal area that can ruin your whole running experience. Matching your breathing to the strides could be a good breathing technique while running. Like a swimmer, inhale for 2-4 strides and take the same amount of time (or strides) to exhale. If you are running faster, take 1-2 strides per breath, and if you are running at a slow pace then take 3-4 strides in one breath. By doing it this way, you enable your body to better transport oxygen to cells and tissues, and you also protect yourself from side stitches.

Stretching and warming up before running is a very important step. The other thing to be careful about is doing it properly, because if you do it wrong or don’t do it at all you will probably experience side stitches, and maybe even an injury. To prevent injury it would be best to ask some experienced runner to help you out with properly warming up and stretching techniques, or look for advice online.

If a side stitch occurs during your run, slow down and breathe out. Exhaling will make the stitch go away in a matter of seconds. If it happens again, do the same thing. Exhale when the foot that is not on the side where you got the side stitch touches the ground, and do it with your diaphragm. That way you will release the tension that caused the cramping, as the force of the impact of your foot touching the ground travels through your body and affects the muscles where the side stitch occurred. For instance, you are having a side stitch on your left side, and now you know what to do to get rid of it – slow down your running pace or start walking, as your right foot touches the ground exhale using your diaphragm, you will feel relief very soon, and will be able to continue running as if nothing has happened.