If you’ve ever had a side stitch, you probably don’t need us to tell you how painful it can be and you may want to jump to the second part of this post. On the other hand, if you’ve escaped the wrath of Side stitches so far, read on to understand what they are and then how to keep your streak going!
Side stitches, also known as side cramps is an exercise related sharp stabbing pain that occurs just below the rib cage. While they are most common among runners, most sporting activities can cause stitches, including swimming and biking. The exact cause of side stitches is currently unknown in modern medicine. The most popular theories suggest that they might be the result of diaphragmatic spasms, reduced blood flow because of overloads on the liver, a lack of oxygen or a lack of minerals such as calcium and potassium.
Fortunately, despite not knowing the exact cause, there are a number of strategies that are effective in preventing side stitches.
1. Run slower: Some of you may not like hearing this, but if you’re having stitches often, you might want to reduce your pace, thereby reducing the impact on your body while you run.
2. Strengthen your core: A stronger core means that there’s less pressure on the diaphragm and the organs in your sides. So start planking for about 10 minutes 3 times a week and you’ll notice the difference very soon.
3. Stretch: Yes, stretching and yoga are our answers for almost everything 🙂 When you stretch, you create space for your muscles, ligaments and organs to move freely. Especially useful are stretches and exercises that increase spinal mobility, like the ones here and here.
4. Pay attention to what you eat: It’s no secret that you should be avoiding sugar as much as you can. What most people don’t think of though is that you should avoid fats and fibers for the last two hours before working out. These slow digesting foods are normally all right, but if you’re still digesting while you are working out, you’re increasing your risk of side stitches.
5. Warm up: Always warm up your body before working out. We can’t stress this enough. It prevents all kinds of injuries, not just stitches.
6. Experiment with different breathing styles: Try inhaling and exhaling for unequal periods of time. For instance, if you inhale for 3 counts, exhale for 2 or vice versa.
A mix of these tactics will drastically increase your risk of getting side stitches while working out.