Having just completed Connor’s Run on the weekend, I experienced that all too familiar burning pain in the side of your abdomen that signals a stitch. It makes any runner want to stop in their tracks until that pain subsides. So, I decided to do some research to understand what causes this familiar pain and the best way to prevent it from happening in the first place.
What is a stitch?
Basically, a stitch occurs when there is a reduction in blood flow to the diaphragm. There is no definite reason as to why this occurs. Theories suggest it is caused by pressure from the legs on to the diaphragm from below, in addition to quick breathing putting on pressure from above, resulting in the muscle pinching and cutting off the blood and oxygen supply.
How can you prevent a stitch?
1. Stay hydrated: Ensure you are well hydrated in the 12 hours before exercising.
2. Don’t eat too much food or sugar: Avoid large quantities of food in the 2 hours prior to exercising. Also stay away from sugary drinks and lollies.
3. Deep breaths: Most runners swear by deep, steady breathing to help avoid a stitch. If this doesn’t help, try slowing your pace and reducing intensity until the sensation subsides.
See a doctor if you experience persistent pain following exercise.