What Causes A Stitch When Running?

Have you ever gone for a run only to be pierced by a stinging ache in your side? The sort that makes you sit, hold your rib cage, and breathe funny to keep the pain from becoming worse?

We’ve all been there, believe it or not. It’s not just you, either. What a welcome relief! (Until the cramp has subsided.) 

What Causes a Stitch When Running?

Getting a stitch in your side is the term for this phenomenon. Although a side stitch is relatively painless, it can be quite uncomfortable.

And as a result, we are frequently obliged to abandon a race in the middle of it.

Today, we will be discussing what causes a stitch when you run, and we will also go through some helpful tips to try and avoid it in the future. 

What is a Stitch?

A stitch is a pain in the side caused by strenuous activity. Stitches come from the word ‘stitch’ because they’re painful, and make you want to stop doing what you were doing.

When running, sometimes you can’t continue and need to wait for the stitch to subside. Stitches are painful and annoying.

They happen unexpectedly and usually last longer than expected. There isn’t much you can do about them except stop running until the pain goes away.

What Causes A Stitch When Running?

Stitches are caused by decreased blood flow to the diaphragm. Diaphragms are muscles used to expand lungs to allow breathing.

Exercising increases the demand placed on the diaphragm, therefore causing localized irritations and pains. 

A stitch is simply a muscle pulling on another muscle. There are many theories about why people get stitches. Some think it could be because you’re too active.

Others say it could be because you’ve been sitting down too long. Still, many think it could be because your body isn’t strong enough. Whatever the reason, there’s no need to worry about getting stitches. 

The most common held belief is that a stitch is a painful muscle cramp caused by too much exercise or an injury. This is why stitches usually occur when you are exercising or playing sports.

Even some professional athletes who play contact sports such as football or hockey get stitches. Also, some people who do heavy weight lifting get stitches.

So, don’t feel you’re out of shape or embarrassed about a stitch. It can happen to anyone when doing a physical activity.

How To Get Rid Of A Stitch

Stitches are very painful. You should slow down when you feel them coming on. Stretch your stomach and carry out some small stretches in your upper body.

Try taking deep breaths. Consult a specialist if the pain is too much. 

Try doing the following the next time you start experiencing a sore stitch:

  • Take it easy. The purpose of running is to keep going forward.
  • Breathe deeply from your belly button. Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, necessitates slowing down and focusing on your breath.
  • Arms and abs should be stretched.
  • Apply pressure to the stitch.

Warm Up Your Body

Before you run, do a comprehensive warm up that includes dynamic motions to boost blood flow and prepare your muscles for activity.

To prepare the tissues surrounding the diaphragm. We recommend a warm up that includes reaching motions and trunk rotation.


During exercise, we suggest runners to deeply inhale and thoroughly exhale.

Eat Healthily

Before doing exercise, stay away from trigger foods and beverages.

This includes limiting or avoiding drinks with high processed sugar content 1 to 2 hours before a run, as well as avoiding heavy meals or consuming big amounts of fluids.

How Do You Resolve And Prevent A Stitch?

Pre-running meals do not always help runners. Some people choose foods high in sugar or carbohydrates because they feel more energetic when they eat them.

However, these foods usually make runners tired during exercise. 

A runner should never skip breakfast or lunch. Skipping breakfast means he or she will get less energy throughout the day. Skipping lunch causes a person to lose strength and endurance.

Don’t eat a large meal two hours before an exercise, and limit sugar intake. Drink plenty of water and ensure you are well hydrated. Avoid bloating by drinking small amounts of fluids throughout the day.

What Causes a Stitch When Running?

A moderate pace is also recommended as a starting point. Build intensity gradually and breathe rhythmically to help avoid a stitch.

Stitches can be painful, but there are ways to prevent them. You should avoid eating too much before exercising, and if you do get a pain, you should stop your workout and rest for a few minutes. 

Tips to Avoid Side Stitches


Drinking water or low carb sports drinks before and during workouts can help prevent ETAP (Exercise-related transient abdominal pain). However, people who consume juices or other sugary drinks before exercising may experience more side stitches.

Eat Breakfast

Eat a light breakfast, low-fat, before running.

Warm Up Before Running

Warm-ups should be done before you run, to avoid getting side stitches. Running without warming up first can cause muscle strain or injury.

Slow and Steady

A side stitch is a sign that you’re tired or overworked. Start slowly and increase your speed.

But, if you start to feel a stitch, slow down or stop. This should be done when you feel yourself getting too exhausted.

Train Your Upper Body

Side stitches occur more often when the upper body is heavily engaged in activities such as running, swimming, or horseback riding.

These activities require rotation of the torso, which puts strain on the abdominal muscles. Core training helps reduce this movement. This strategy also decreases the risk of injury.

Control Your Breathing

Breathing rhythm is key to running fast. Side stitches can be caused by irregular breathing.


Athletes should hydrate throughout the competition. Dehydration alone isn’t associated with a cramp, but it can contribute to premature fatigue increasing the risk of a cramp.

How to Treat Cramps While Running

Running can cause cramping. You should slow down if you feel pain while running. Burping or passing gas might help. Drink a sports drink to replenish your electrolytes.

Final Thoughts

Side stitches are common among runners. You should eat a smaller, healthier meal before exercising. Stretch and warm up before running, and breathe deeply when you run.

Happy running!

Megan Rinzel
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