Runners frequently get stitches, also known as side cramps, especially when they first start when their training intensity is increased. Although the reason for stitches has yet to be fully understood, several ideas exist.
What percentage of runners experience a side stitch?
According to research, up to 70% of runners had experienced side stitches during the previous year. It frequently happens when you conduct repetitive motions with your torso maintained erect, which is why it’s so prevalent in runners. However, it is far less frequent in cycling or swimming because of this.
What factors lead to side stitches?
One explanation for sutures is that the diaphragm muscle is not getting enough oxygen. During a run, this might occur if you breathe too quickly or shallowly, which can cause the muscle to spasm and result in a nasty stitch.
Another explanation is that the jarring of the internal organs while running results in stitches. This may be especially true if you consume a lot of fluids or eat a large meal before exercising, as these actions may cause the stomach to enlarge and put pressure on other organs.
Improper running form, such as slouching or hunching over, can increase strain on the diaphragm muscle and cause stitches to form.
Also, new runners who still need to develop their endurance or prepare their bodies for the physical demands of running are more likely to experience stitches.
To help you avoid obtaining stitches while running, consider the following advice:
Warm up properly
Start with a moderate walk or a light jog to gradually raise your heart rate and prepare your body for the more strenuous action of running.
Try to inhale as much air as possible with each deep, steady breath. To expel carbon dioxide from your lungs, concentrate on exhaling completely. Some find it helpful to exhale through pursed lips forcibly.
Watch your posture
During running, maintain proper posture by keeping your shoulders loose and your back upright. Avoid hunching over or slouching, as this can put additional strain on your diaphragm.
Here are some tips to help you watch your posture when running:
- Maintain a straight-ahead gaze, meaning keeps your head up. Avoid slouching or gazing down at your feet. This will help keep your neck and back aligned.
- Maintain a comfortable posture by not pressing your shoulders near your ears. This will lessen shoulder and neck pain.
- Keep your arms relaxed and Engage your core. Do this by drawing your belly button toward your spine to activate your core muscles. Your upper body will be stabilized, and slouching will be avoided.
- Ensure you wear appropriate running shoes supporting your ankles and feet. The danger of damage will be decreased, and good alignment will be maintained.
Avoid eating too soon after a run.
After a substantial meal, wait at least two hours before exercising to give your digestive system time to digest the food. If you must eat before running, pick a snack like a banana, oatmeal, yogurt, energy bar, or gels.
To ensure your body is adequately hydrated throughout your run, drink lots of water before, during, and after. This will maintain your energy levels.
Gradually upping the intensity of your running.
Whether you’re just starting out running or want to increase your intensity, go slowly. Doing so gives your body some time to become used to the new demands you’re making on it.
Slow down or stop momentarily to collect your breath if you feel a stitch coming on. Let the stitch pass.
Should I continue to run if I experience side stitches?
It varies. Although they might be unpleasant, side stitches are safe, according to Running coach Kyle Kranz. So, it is acceptable to slow down, wait for a little, and resume your run.
But doctors concur that you should stop and give your body a break if the pain persists. You can also slow down and walk instead of running, practice deep breathing until the discomfort disappears, and then gradually pick up the pace and heart rate again.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent stitches is to pay attention to your body, move slowly and steadily, and maintain good posture and breathing. In addition, you may create a running regimen that works for you and prevents uncomfortable stitches with experience and persistence.
March is the founder and owner of The Barbell Beauties which she started in 2015. She is from the Philippines and currently lives in beautiful Thailand with her American husband and daughter. She is an avid Crossfitter and has just started her journey into Muay Thai (kickboxing).