How To Get Rid of Side Aches when Running

By Subodh / October 14, 2013

Have you ever had the side ache while running? If you feel the side ache (also called side stitch) while running, don’t worry there is nothing really wrong with you or it is not just you who feels it. It is a common thing experienced by a lot of people. When you breathe in more than you breathe out, side ache happens because of diaphragm spasm. Although common, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is supposed to happen. The professional or regular runners do not experience side ache.

Side ache or side stitch is also known as side cramp or side sticker. In medical terminology, it is referred as ETAP – exercise related transient abdominal pain. If you experience side ache only while running or while exercising and it does not occur while resting it means it is harmless and does not require medical intervention. As the medical term suggest, it is a transient pain and goes away in some time.

How to Get Rid of Side Aches when Running

What are the causes of side ache?

There is no consensus on the causes of side ache and the opinions among the medics are divided. It is widely believed that the pain is caused by the unusual pressure on the diaphragm by the leg and lungs. While running the leg exerts pressure from below and quick breathing causes rapid inflation and deflation of lungs which puts pressure from above on the diaphragm. The dual pressure on the diaphragm from above and below results in reduced blood supply and oxygen; which further causes cramps and pain. Some believe that eating too much of fatty food before running causes this ache.

Who can have this transient side ache?

Running is more likely to cause side ache than walking as it puts more pressure on the diaphragm. Women have higher chances of having side ache than men. Younger people who are new to exercising and working out are more likely to experience side aches than the ones who have been working out regularly for a long time. In the same way people who are not used to running experience side aches more than the people who regularly run.

If you are experiencing side aches then you may also be trying to figure out how to get rid of side aches. Here are some tips.

Don’t eat before running

One of the most common reasons of side ache observed so far is eating before running. If you are experiencing side aches, this is something you will need to take care of. Do not eat before running and even if you have to, eat moderately. You cannot go running half an hour after your lunch or heavy breakfast. You should at least give a gap of two hours after your meal before you run – that too after taking a light meal. If you have had a heavy meal, you will have to wait longer than two hours before you start running. If it is difficult for you to go two hours without eating, then eat something very light, like a banana, thirty minutes before running.

Side aches are also caused by dehydration

So you know what you need to do now. Yes. Drink water before running. If you can keep a bottle of water with you, you can take a sip or two while running. This will keep you hydrated and avoid side stitch.

Do not drink water excessively

Yes you need to drink water to keep yourself hydrated but don’t drink so much that you get bloated. It will again cause side ache. Many people think that if you are sweating out too much while running you also need to drink a lot of water. You do need to drink good quantity of water but not all at once. Don’t bloat yourself with one liter of water just before running. Drink moderately but frequently.

Stop and take some rest

When you experience side ache do not continue running. As we learnt, it is a transient pain. You must stop running, sit down and take some rest. This will alleviate the pain and after a while you will be able to resume running. You can also perform different stretching exercises during the pain. It will help reduce the pain.

Take some deep breaths

Side ache is also a result of reduced blood flow to diaphragm and reduced oxygen in your body. Taking a few deep breaths could help reduce the pain. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

If none of these tips work and side ache continues even after resting for a long time then you must make sure to consult a doctor. It is normally innocuous but there is no point taking risks. Your doctor will be able to tell you better the next step you need to take.