If you have ever been on a proper run, you know what a side stitch is and how inconvenient it can be. Also referred to as Exercise-Related Transient Abdominal Pain (ETAP), a side stitch is a pain felt on either side of your abdomen usually occurring in moments of physical exertion. Most common on the right side, it is a recurrent issue when participating in most sport. The symptom is pain, but the pain can range from cramping or a dull ache to pulling sensation or sharp, stabbing pain. While side stitches are nothing serious, they are highly inconvenient and oftentimes come in the way of you enjoying something. So we come to you with Causes, Prevention and Treatment of a Side Stitch.
Causes of a Side Stitch
If you are the curious sort, every time you get a stitch, you wonder what exactly causes it. Well, your curiosity will have to be left unsatiated as the exact cause of a side stitch is unknown. Some observational studies have shown that movement of blood to the diaphragm or other muscles during physical activity can lead to a side stitch. While other research on the matter suggests that an irritation of peritoneum, the serum lining in the abdominal cavity may be what causes a side stitch. Said irritation may occur when there’s a lot of movement and friction in the torso during physical activity.
Age is probably a factor in this, there is evidence that suggests that younger individuals are more likely to get side stitches. However, before the old folks can gloat about this, it is highly likely that older people don’t get stitches because of
Posture may also have a part to play. Based on observational evidence, it is likely that individuals with poor postures, like in cases of kyphosis (abnormal rounding of the upper back), are more susceptible to side stitches.
While it is commonly believed that higher exercise intensity can lead to side stitches, there is no definite consensus about it influencing the development of stitches. Multiple pieces of research regarding the matter have led to conflicting observations. Meaning some researches have observed higher intensity workouts may cause side stitches, while other researches have observed the opposite. That being said, physical conditioning does influence the probability of side stitches as physically fit individuals are less likely to experience them. Note that we said ‘less likely’ because even professional athletes experience them. That’s one thing you have common with Cristiano Ronaldo; now all that’s left is to replicate his near-superhuman exploits on the footballing pitch and you’ll be set for life.
Eating before working out is also commonly considered a potential cause of side stitches. But that might not be the case as failure to reproduce a side stitch under laboratory conditions leaves us with inconclusive evidence. But the evidence does suggest ingestion of fluids with carbohydrates may increase the probability of side stitches in an individual.
If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, insufficient warm-ups or working out in cold temperature results in side stitch pain.
Muscle cramps are commonly associated with side stitches. But yet again, there is little research confirming a connection between cramps and side stitches.
Athletes have often reported shoulder tip pain accompanied by a side stitch. There is no conclusive research as to why, but it is suspected to be so because when the abdominal lining is irritated, it can bring about localized pain in different areas, including the tip of the shoulder. More research is needed on this matter though.
Prevention of a Side Stitch
You now kind of know the cause behind it but that doesn’t help you enough to not suffer a side stitch. Well here is how you can prevent it:
If you are a regular runner and usually experience side stitches in a post morning meal run, eat a light breakfast, low in fibre and fat. Also recommended that you eat said breakfast 2 to 3 hours before starting your run. A power snack before the run will not be much of an issue
Generally one of the most essential parts of any physical exercise, an adequate pre-run warm-up not only readies the muscles, it also promotes optimal breathing.
A Steady Pace
Walk before you run as they say. Literally in this case, as intensifying your exercise before your body can handle it can cause a side stitch.
Upper body strengthening
Usually, a side stitch occurs in sports and exercises where the upper body is heavily involved. So a well-trained core is essential, it reduces rotational movements in the trunk of the body. Thus actively supporting the internal organs and reducing cramp risk. A well-trained trunk can also minimize injury risk.
The higher your exercise intensity, the more oxygen your body requires. Shallow or irregular breathing can also lead to side stitches. Therefore, rhythmic breathing and proper intake of oxygen are key.
Aside from being incredibly sexy, trained abs do have plenty of function. Side stitches can be prevented with well-trained oblique muscles.
If side stitches are a recurrent issue for you, seek a physiotherapist. They can review your technique and posture and advice you accordingly.
We have sort of told you the causes behind side stitches and what you can do to prevent them. But now you might be wondering how to treat them. Well there are numerous ways to resolve the pain caused by a side stitch including:
simple, right? If you are running, when you experience a side stitch, slow down to a walk or take a break altogether.
Simple yet again, deep breathe and slow exhale relives any side stitch-related pain.
Self-explanatory, stretch by reaching with one hand overhead, bending to the side where felt the stitch.
Apply pressure to the painful area, bending your torso slightly forward. Release pressure while breathing out.
What would we do without water? Staying hydrated while exercising is essential. But do try and avoid sugary sports drinks.
Generally, a side stitch lasts for a few minutes at most and resolve on its own. However if a side stitch does not dissipate even a few hours after the exercise, seek medical care. It might be caused by a much more serious underlying medical condition. If you’re experiencing sharp, stabbing pain accompanied by a fever or swelling on the side of your abdomen, seek emergency medical help right away.