How To Deal With a Stitch

By Subodh / January 19, 2014

You get up in the morning determined to run at least 5 miles today. You put the running shoes on and you are on the road all charged up to go miles. First two miles go amazing without any problem and you are absolutely confident that you will make it five today no matter how. But suddenly you feel an excruciating side pain right under your ribs. You think it will go away in a while but it does not. It stays and starts getting worse. You can’t go any longer anymore; you sit down on the ground grabbing the pain area of the body as if you almost fell. The pain doesn’t seem to be subsiding and you think you have a reason to panic now. Is this critical? Will you have to go to the hospital?

If you are a regular runner, especially long distance, you wouldn’t be asking these questions. Such pain is called stitch or more precisely side stitch which is very common among the runners. Every runner experiences it once in a while. If you are a regular runner, you will not panic at all. You will be able to take care of it. Side stitch is not lethal and is a momentary pain which gets subsided after some time. But all the while it is there, it could hurt real badly. This is how you can deal with a stitch.

Don’t Panic, No One Has Ever Died of Side Stitch

It could be very painful when you experience it but at the same time it is not lethal at all. No one has ever died of side stitch. If you are experiencing it for the first time and you are not aware that anything like this exists then you may start worrying. But if you are a regular runner you will know that it is a very common pain and almost every runner experiences it every now and then. So be calm, it is not life threatening at all.

The moment the pain starts don’t try to run any further. Most likely the pain will not allow you to run further. A good idea would be to find a place where you can sit and relax for a while. If you can find a bench or a chair nearby make yourself comfortable on it. However, if there is nothing to sit, you can settle yourself on the ground. You need a place to relax to allow the pain to alleviate.

Control Your Breathing

The next thing you want to do after finding a place to relax is to try to control your breathing. Quick breathing will cause the fast inflation and deflation of lungs which will cause faster movement of muscles. Your muscles need to get relaxed to allow the pain to subside. The faster you are able to control your breathing, the faster the pain will start subsiding.

To control your breathing you can try the deep breathing exercise. Inhale air from your nose to the maximum capacity of the lungs. Once you have inhaled, hold the oxygen in your lungs for about 3-5 seconds and then release it. This will have two fold benefits. First it will control your breathing. Second, it will control your heart rate too.

Some scientists say that fast breathing while running is the main cause of the side stitch. There are no concrete scientific explanations of side stich at this time though.

Don’t Run After Eating

If you ask ten runners what you should eat before running and you will get ten different answers. Everyone has his own personal preferences and something may work for someone but not for someone else. What works for you can only be determined after trying and testing several times. Regardless of the answer by different runners, there is one universal thing that everyone will tell you. Every runner will tell you that you should not eat or drink heavily before running. Heavy eating and drinking should not be done at least an hour prior to running.  In fact, even light eating should be avoided at least half an hour prior to running.

If you are concerned that you may get dehydrated while running if you do not drink enough water, then there is a solution to this problem too. You don’t need to drink heavily before running. Instead, while running, you can consume small amount of water at frequent intervals. This will keep you from getting bloated but you will remain hydrated.

Stretching Exercises Will Help You Alleviate The Stitch Pain

If the pain does not subside with resting you can try some stretch exercises too. It has been observed that stretching exercises help reduce the pain. For instance, you can raise your hands and stretch them above your head as far as you can go. This will stretch the abdominal muscles and help in reducing the pain. Many times the pain gets alleviated with slow walking. If fast running has caused the pain, you can stop running and start slow walking.

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