The Runners Curse: Stitch

I have always been running despite the fact that I am not a big fan of running. Saying that, I am really getting into it now. However sometimes at the very beginning of my running sesh or the very end of it I might experience sharp side pain and often have to stop to calm the pain down.

What is it? What it happens? How to treat it? 

Annablogia: what causes side stitches

My boyfriend believes that drinking before or while running causes stitches and always avoid any fluids when on the running track. I have noticed that it might be in fact true; however placebo effect might be in place.

1. So I went on to find out. Surprisingly no one really knows 😦 BOO! However some research has shown that drinking high-sugar beverages before exercise increases the likelihood of stitches. They also found a link between side stitches and increased curvature of the spine. I am really not sure what they mean by it 😦 Good news is that drinking while running does not cause side stitches, according to the same studies.

Many believe that eating too early before running might cause this annoying sharp pain. Others are sure that not breathing deep enough causes side stitches. 

2. Well, I found another theory. According to BBC Sport (and I quote) during exercise, our blood moves away from the diaphragm to the limbs. The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the stomach and abdomen from the heart and lungs. It’s one of the main muscles involved in breathing. Most scientists believe the pain is caused by a reduction in blood supply to the diaphragm, causing it to cramps. The stitch is caused by fluids which the body finds hard to digest. This causes the gut to “tug” on the ligaments connecting it to the diaphragm. Fairy complicating, isn’t it?

In other words and according to other articles, spasm in diaphragm is caused by over-working it by intense exercising. Hard to believe, isn’t it? However if you ever noticed stitches more often occur among new runners or after taking a long break from running. Made me wonder that maybe the lack of blood flow to the diaphragm muscle stressed during exercise causes pain, indeed.

Annablogia: runners stitch

I must admit though that I often drink during running and if I consume one or two sips I am fine; however more than that most likely to slow me down and bring on my knees, crunching in stitches pain.

3. Another theory is very straight forward and might seem to be making a lot of sense. It is when running, the stomach and liver and other organs are subject to jostling and bouncing causing tugs on the ligaments suspending the organs, causing periodic pain.

4. I am very sensitive when people talk biology but  research has shown that in about 50% of runners tested the exact stitch pain could be reproduced with manipulation of particular joints in the spine of the thorax. Runners with wrong posture often get stitch more often than the ones running correctly.

5. Another theory suggests that there are two layers of membrane that line the inside of the abdominal cavity and the layer attaches to the abdominal wall rub together causing pain.

As I have been observing myself I’ve noticed that I personally need to avoid drinking too much water (or eating of course) when running, need to breath deep and breath in through the nose while breath out though the mouth and of course when I start up I get stitches almost all the time and when I keep it regular no pain comes back to me. Thus, I believe it is fairly clear what causes my

Annablogia: runners curse stitch

stitches. I agree that the running posture might affect the stitches. My boyfriend and I ran together couple of times and while he is very relaxed, opened and tall I sometimes crunch while running bringing my arm forward swinging my whole body. When he runs he seem to hop, keeps his chest opened with less arms assistance. Boy I must say he is succeeding while I am barely keeping up with him. I tried the open posture keeping my back solid rock straight with less arms in font of me and seems to be working for me.

6. Now, another theory of my boyfriend was “you need to lose weight to be lighter” in order to avoid stitches. Well, acording to one of the studies body type (weight, age and sex) have no measurable effect on the incidence of stitches whereas poor posture, particularly in the thoracic region has a significant affect. When they say “poor posture” the mean “slouching” – curving of the spine causing a bowing or rounding of the back, which leads to a slouching or hunchback posture which is what I used to run as.

While many say there is no answer to the “what causes stitches” there are some hints and tips which work for many runners. Try them out and find your way. In order to avoid the pain:

  •  do not consume large meal within two hours of exercise.
  •  avoid drinking hypertonic drinks or eating concentrated foods prior to exercise. The say Isotonic drinks such as sports drinks are better if you really need to drink while running.
  •  What to do if your way too thirsty than? Ensure hydration prior to commencing exercise to assist gastric emptying during exercise. AND continue drinking but in very small dosages in order to avoid dehydration but also not to become a stitch slave.

Annablogia: run stitch free


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