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> Stitch when running – what is it, how to prevent it, and keep running?

Stitch when running – what is it, how to prevent it, and keep running?

Publish date 05.10.2022

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Stitch when running – what is it, how to prevent it, and keep running?

More than once you probably felt a sudden and unpleasant pain in the abdominal area, which prevented you from continuing to run for a while. This is a stitch, which often occurs when you least expect it. 

If you are a runner, then you should familiarize yourself with the concept of stitch and learn why it occurs and how to prevent it. If you are here it means that you are seeking this knowledge. That’s good, the more you know the better training you can do. 

In this article, you will learn all the most important information about stitches when running. I will explain everything to you calmly and one by one. You don’t have to worry, you will not catch breathlessness or stitches 😉

What is a stitch when running?

I will try to explain this concept to you as simply as possible. A stitch is a sudden pain that attacks just below the ribs near the diaphragm. It appears without any prior warning that it is about to come. Therefore, it forces the runner to reduce the pace of running or even stop if the pain is strong. 

Although the stitch when running is sudden and unexpected it quickly subsides – all you need to do is stop for a while, take a breath, stretch and resume your training again. 

Stitch is caused by various factors, for example; abdominal muscle spasms, diaphragm spasms caused by blood outflow, or excess food accumulated in the stomach.

Stitch when running – where does it hurt most often?

For runners, the most common pain is in the middle and upper abdomen, in the subcostal area. Most often it occurs on the right side. However, for children and adolescents, it is more common on the left side. 

Which people are more prone to developing stitches when running? 

As is often the case, some people are more prone to developing stitches while running than others. What factors influence this? 

  • Physical condition/training level – all indications are that if your training level is high then your risk of the stitch while running is lower. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you are just starting out and often feel sudden pain. Over time, its frequency will decrease. Better fitness = less risk of stitches when running. 
  • Age – as it turns out, the frequency of stitches is also affected by age. This information may be shocking to you, but its intensity and frequency decrease with age. 
  • People who suffer from such ailments as bloating, abdominal muscle tension, or abdominal wall cramps are more likely to have stitches while running.

Fun fact: It has also been noted that stitch occurs more often when training in lower temperatures. 

Running stitch -how it developed

What causes a running stitch?  

1. Lack of warm-up before training 

If you do any kind of sport then you surely know how important a warm-up is. Thanks to it, you not only warm up individual muscles but also prepare them for work. You also improve respiratory capacity and blood flow. During the warm-up, do a couple of exercises that will warm up the abdominal area and diaphragm. With these, you will reduce the risk of stitches while running.

2. Improper breathing 

When you run you also need to develop proper breathing. It will not only make you more comfortable and easier to run, but also avoid sudden stitches. 

You may be thinking, “But how can I breathe wrong? Seriously, even this I’m doing wrong?”

You can. Improper fast and shallow breathing can contribute to pain. Because of this, the portable is constantly tense and therefore suddenly begins to hurt. What’s more, improper breathing doesn’t supply enough oxygen to the muscles, which work intensively.

Therefore, you should learn to breathe properly so that the pain does not appear so often. Want to learn how to breathe while running? Check out my article on the subject: https://sbiegacza.pl/en/how-to-breathe-when-running-8-tips-on-how-to-do-it-right/.

3. Meal before running 

I’ll probably be hungry while running, after all, I will be burning calories. I’ll eat a full meal before going out so that my stomach doesn’t burp“.

I can tell you right away that I advise against eating large meals before running. Why? A full stomach can contribute to stitches while running. Even more so, drinking carbonated beverages is discouraged. 

4. Weak trunk muscles 

You may be surprised to learn that weak trunk muscles can lead to more frequent stitches, but it’s true. 

5. Acceleration/long-distance running 

Stitches when running can occur when you want to accelerate too fast. The body must first adjust to the intensity of the effort. Therefore, if you do it too fast, you can lead to sudden pain in the diaphragm area, under the ribs. 

The same thing happens when you want to lengthen your run too quickly. Approach your workout calmly and slowly increase your running distance. If you do it too fast you will have to stop running anyway because of the stitch that is bound to occur. 

6. Stress 

What causes a running stitch? Stress. Yes, stitch can also occur from mental exertion. Nowadays, we are exposed to constant stress – whether it’s at work, at home, or even while running when you’re competing. 

How to prevent stitches when running? 

  • Remember to do a 5-10 minute warm-up before your workout. This will keep your muscles warm up and ready for your workout. 
  • Learn to breathe properly. You need to develop a technique for rhythmic diaphragmatic breathing. Do diaphragmatic exercises for a few minutes every day. Work on your running rhythm by counting your steps. By breathing correctly, you will deliver more oxygen to your muscles and be able to train intensively without stitches. 
  • Wait 3-4 hours after a meal before you start running. If the meal was rich in protein and fat then you can wait even longer. Control what you eat and drink a few hours before training. Eat something light and small before running. 
  • Strengthen your trunk muscles. Add strength exercises to your workout that involve your core. This will increase their endurance and respiratory capacity. 
  • Deal with stress. Before your workout, perform meditation and relax. Use various meditation techniques. If you can’t cope with stress, reach for help from a psychologist. This is no shame! 
  • Drink water or isotonic drinks during your workout. Avoid carbonated drinks and fruit juices. 
  • Slowly increase your running speed. Don’t start by sprinting – slowly increase your running speed. Then the body will get used to the exertion, and thus there will be less chance of stitches. 

Now you know how to prevent running stitches when running. Change your habits and run without stitches. 

How to get rid of a stitch while running? 

OK, I know how to prevent stitches when running, but what to do if I’m attacked by sudden pain while running?”

I have an answer for you to this question, too. Even professional runners sometimes get it. So how to get rid of a stitch while running? There are several ways to do it.

  1. Reduce your running pace and then put pressure on the area that hurts you. Start working your diaphragm – pulling in and pushing out your abdomen. 
  2. Stop and stand in a slight stretch. Then bend forward as much as possible – your arms should hang freely. Relax your body and start breathing deeply.
  3. Stop and stand up straight. Do side bends. Breathe deeply and calmly. 

How to cope with stitch while running – mistakes

Yes, even when dealing with stitches you can make mistakes. What to avoid?

Think about it. Suddenly you feel tremendous pain, you grab the sore spot and… you squat or sit down to reduce the pain. WRONG! 

When you feel this kind of pain while running, you need to take a moment to stand upright and stretch. This will help you deal with the pain faster. Sitting and squatting will only slow dawn the process.  

How to stop the stitches when running
DO NOT sit down when you have a stitch. Stretch!

Stitch when running – when to go to the doctor?

Stitch is a pain that can occur while running, so you should not worry about it. However, it can be alarming when it appears too often, even though you do everything to avoid it, e.g. strengthen your muscles, and breathe properly.  When it hurts a lot – you are reeling from the pain – go to the doctor and tell them about your complaints. 

I hope you learned all the most important things from this article. Now you know what stitch is, how it occurs, how to prevent running stitches when running, and stop it. Remember, however, that even if you practice according to all the guidelines, it does not guarantee that stitch will never return. Stitch while running accompanies everyone, even professional athletes. 

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