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How to Stop or Prevent a Side Stitch
Strategies to Reduce Exercise Related Transient Abdominal Pain when Running
It must be a very small number of runners who havent experienced a side stitch or two. Its not limited to running; athletes participating in other activities share our pain. For example, those in aerobics classes, cross-country skiing just to name a couple.
The good news it that its not technically a running injury like shin splints. Nevertheless, it may still take you out of the game for several minutes. More good news? When you understand what brings it on, youre halfway to stopping it or preventing it altogether.
You might have heard it called a side crampie or a side ache, but your doctor would label it ETAP (Exercise related Transient Abdominal Pain). Transient doesnt mean she thinks youre a homeless person or a vagrant; it just means that its temporary.
So What Causes Side Stitches?
This is the mystery question. Theories abound but its accepted that ETAP is a medical condition which happens when the ligaments which run from your diaphragm to your your liver and other internal organs stretch. Picture this: your thoracic diaphragm is essentially a group of muscles situated at the lower part of your rib cage (see illustration above).
The purpose of your thoracic diaphragm is to tighten and loosen to change the shape and proportions of your thoracic cavity. This allows your lungs to enlarge when you inhale. And you know how much more and how deeply you inhale when running. Clever, isnt it?
It is also interesting to note that the spasms that accompany side stitches tend to happen when your right foot strikes and youre exhaling. Coincidentally, your liver is located on right right side.
Prevent Side Stitches Before They Occur
Runners that fall victim to these aches report anecdotally that they have them less often as their fitness level increases along with their weekly mileage. Logically, this means that as the body gets used to the stress it learns to deal with it. Heres some strategies to follow that may help: `
- Start out easy, then begin to pick up your pace.
- Always warm up prior to racing or doing speedwork.
- Hydrate well before you run; dehydration seems to raise the chance of it happening.
- Dont run right after a meal. The more you have in your belly, the less room there is for expansion.
Ways to Stop the Pain
- Change your breathing pattern. If its your habit to exhale when your right foot strikes, try exhaling on the left instead.
- Slow down or stop to reduce breathing, therefore spasms.
- Place your hand on the pain immediately below your rib cage. Gently press inwards and upwards. This will support your organs while taking the pressure of your diaphragm.
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