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How to get rid of a stitch


> The exact causes remain unknown

Generally occurring on the sides below the rib cage, particularly on the left side, side stitches (also called side aches or side cramps) are not unique to runners. All those doing endurance sports (particularly cyclists and swimmers) may also fall victim to them.

Despite extensive research, the exact causes that trigger these pains remain unknown. Diaphragm muscles cramps caused by a lack of oxygenation while exercising have often been thought to be the cause. However, recent studies have proven that there is no increase in muscle spasms around the diaphragm when a runner is experiencing a side stitch.

A newly emerged theory asserts that improper positioning of the body, causing excessive curving of the spinal column, may be at the root of breathing difficulties which then lead to side stitches.


> What we do know for certain is:

. Eating food rich in lipids (fats) and fibres increases the chance of side stitches.It is advised to abide by the "3 hour rule", allowing your food to digest fully, to avoid any pain while training or competing. Also take care to moderate your consumption of sugary drinks.

. Warm-ups should be gradual and extended.This is especially important in cold weather and for beginner or novice runners. Start off with some fast walking, and then increase your speed very gradually until reaching your target (based on your training programme or running level). Plan at least twenty minutes of increasingly active warm-up, to reduce the risk of side stitches.


> How to get rid of a side stitch (quickly)

The most effective technique for never having the need to heal is to be proactive! But if you do get a side stitch, the first thing you should do is focus on your breathing.

. Avoid a jerky inhaling and exhaling pattern.Adopt as regular a breathing pattern as possible, regardless of your running speed or intensity.

. Breathe in and out through your mouth, pushing the air out. Breathe deeply from your belly (diaphragm) and not from your chest.

If the side stitch is sharp and starts to bother you, gently and gradually push on the area experiencing pain. Then inhale as deeply as possible and hold your breath for two to three seconds. Exhale as deeply and for as long as possible, while keeping your mouth wide open.

If the side stitch persists, stop running and walk a few dozen metres while maintaining as regular and deep a breathing pattern as possible.


Side stitches are generally a benign side effect to running. Nevertheless, if they persist, or you experience them while at rest, they can be a sign of heart problems.