Do Stitches Hurt?

When running or exercising, it’s common to develop a pain in the side of your stomach. This is called a stitch.

The cause of this is usually due to overuse and not stretching enough before exercise. It is also caused by bad breathing. 

Do stitches hurt

Side stitches can cause discomfort, and they can affect anyone. However, most stitches are not dangerous and will stop a few minutes after you stop exercising.

Although they are not life-threatening, they still can be incredibly annoying and this article tells you a little more about them, how to prevent them, and most importantly if they hurt.

Do Stitches Hurt?

A side stitch when running can, unfortunately, be relatively painful. They are one of the most common causes for runners to stop their workouts early on. A stitch is an uncomfortable feeling that occurs when running.

As you run, your diaphragm contracts and pushes air into your lungs. If you don’t stretch properly beforehand, then the muscle fibers in your diaphragm may become tight and tense up. These muscles can get irritated and cause a stitch.

Side stitches are common during many forms of exercise, particularly running. It is estimated that around 70% of runners had experienced one in the last year.

Moreover, about one in five race participants are likely to develop a stitch during their race. 

What Do Stitches Feel Like?

A stitch lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes. If you have a stitch, you might experience some discomfort.

You could even feel as though you’re going to vomit. You might feel nauseous. Some people describe the sensation as being similar to having gas pains in your abdomen.

If you notice that your stitch is becoming longer or more frequent, it’s time to seek medical help. Your doctor will examine you and determine whether there is anything medically wrong with you. 

How To Prevent Stitches From Happening

The best way to prevent a stitch from happening is to stretch well before you start training. You should do some light stretches, such as lunges, squats, and push-ups.

Also, make sure to warm up your body with some easy jogging first. Once you have warmed up, you should begin your workout routine.

How To Prevent Stitches From Happening

If you experience a stitch during your workout, try to relax and take deep breaths.

Try not to panic because this will only worsen the situation. Instead, focus on relaxing your entire body and taking slow, deep breaths.

If you continue to feel a stitch, you might want to consider stopping your workout until you’ve had time to rest.

If you’re experiencing a stitch, and you’re unable to stop yourself from continuing, you can use a technique called “the pause”.

Simply put, this means that you stop running for a moment, but keep moving forward at a slower pace. By doing so, you’ll be able to catch your breath without having to stop completely.

Case studies prove that stretching the stomach, taking deep breaths, and contracting the abdominal muscles whilst bending forward can all help a side stitch go away.

This means that when you are mid-run, and you are looking for a way to continue without letting the stitch ruin your whole run, try one of these techniques. 

What Are Some Causes Of Stitches?

Stretching is important, but sometimes people don’t know exactly what they need to do to prevent a stitch.

The cause of a stitch is still uncertain, but there have been studies to try and work out some potential reasons people experience the pain. Here are some things that could potentially lead to a stitch:

Poor Breathing

When you run, your lungs expand and contract. Your diaphragm is responsible for pushing air into your lungs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work correctly. Many times, your diaphragms are too tight. This makes it difficult for your lungs to fill with air.

Tight Muscles

When you run, your muscles contract. This helps move your limbs through space. However, if you don’t stretch your muscles out properly, they can become tight. This can lead to a stitch.

Too Much Weight

Running requires a lot of energy. It’s also very tiring. Therefore, if you’re carrying too much weight, you won’t be able to exercise as effectively. This can lead to fatigue and eventually, a stitch.

Not Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation can be extremely detrimental to your health. When you’re tired, your body isn’t functioning as efficiently as it should. This leads to poor breathing and other problems when exercising.


Sometimes injuries can affect how your body functions. For example, if you have a sprained ankle or leg, you might find that you can’t walk as fast as usual. This can lead to more strain on your muscles and tendons.

Excessive Heat

Excessive heat can also contribute to a stitch. The reason is simple: when the weather gets hot, your body sweats.

Sweating causes your skin to lose moisture. As a result, your blood vessels can constrict. This can lead to pain in your legs as well as a nasty stitch.

Lack Of Water

It may seem obvious, but drinking enough water is essential for good health. When you’re dehydrated, your body has trouble absorbing nutrients.

This can cause muscle cramps and even lead to a stitch. To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.

Eating And Drinking Before A Run

Eating food or drinking beverages before a run can increase the risk of developing a stitch. Certain types of food and drink seem to be more linked with developing a stitch, particularly foods that are higher in fat and sugar.

This includes a lot of fruits, juices, and dairy. Although fueling for a run is important, ensure you leave a little space before you run for your food to digest and minimize the risk of you developing a stitch.

And always stick to water when rehydrating!

Irritation Of The Spinal Cord

Side stitches have been associated with irritation of the spinal column.

The pain from a side stitch, during case studies, has been reproduced by putting manual pressure on the vertebrae along the upper spine, and since running involves a vertical jolting of the spine, this could be the reason.

Final Thoughts

We hope after reading this article you have learned all you need to know about the side stitch in running and although the cause is uncertain, there are plenty of studies that suggest it could be a result of eating before running, not stretching enough, or even irritation of the spinal cord.

To answer the question, stitches do hurt, but they are bearable. 

If you feel like the stitch has not disappeared after exercise, or you continue to feel nauseous, it’s always important to seek medical help as it could be something more serious.

But if you remember to stretch, contract the abdominal muscles, hydrate, and keep an eye on your breathing, you should be good to go! Happy running!

Megan Rinzel
Latest posts by Megan Rinzel (see all)