Why we get stitches while running and how to avoid them

Side stitches, or side pains, can be very painful and uncomfortable, and can hinder a perfect running experience almost immediately. The pain can start off slight and increase sharply in a matter of seconds. More than anything, side stitches are a nuisance to runners and may mean you need to stop your workout early!

What is a Stitch?

A side stitch is felt on either the right or left hand side of the body, though it most often occurs on the left side. It resonates in the area right below your lower ribs. The pain can be so intense at times that it can even cause you to stop running completely.

Why do Stitches Occur?

There is no definite medical explanation for why stitches occur, especially during running, but there are several theories. Some researchers claim that stitches are more common with beginner runners, due to the fact that they are more likely to engage in rapid or shallow breathing.

Rapid breathing is believed to not fully engage and relax the diaphragm, thereby causing the ligaments on one side of the body to contract forcefully. Another belief is that the rapid breathing, combined with the jolting of running and exhaling as your right foot touches the ground, puts additional strain on the ligaments near the liver and the diaphragm, which then causes the pain to be felt on the left side of the body.

Other research states that eating a meal within one hour of a run can cause side stitches, as well as drinking sugary or carbonated drinks. The digestive system has not worked the food and drinks completely through the system, and could be the reason for the sharp pains felt on the side.

Still other research suggests that if a runner forgoes a proper warm-up before a running session, and starts off running too fast, too soon, he or she will experience sharp side pain.

Preventing Stitches

If you notice that you get side stitches often, first ensure that you are not eating any type of meal, even a small snack, and large amounts of liquid within one to two hours of a run. You can drink a little water, but not too much, and avoid sports and carbonated drinks. Water is always your best choice before a run, especially in hot weather.

Another means of preventing stitches is to practice deep breathing in a rhythmic manner. Smooth, slow, complete breathing cycles will allow you to avoid rapid breathing. While you are breathing in and out fully, you also want to maintain proper posture.

The proper posture for running is to have your back straight, not hunched over, your chest up and open for easy breathing, and your arms bent at 90 degree angles at your sides. This posture will ensure that your muscles are not being squeezed, which can cause almost a muscle cramp.

If you do happen to experience stitches, press real hard into the side that hurts and breathe deeply. Although it is hard to keep a good posture during this episode, try your best. After slow, even-paced breathing and massaging of the tense muscle, the pain should subside.

6 Tips for new runners

Running is something that almost everyone can do, but that doesn’t make it easy! Therefore, here are six tips on how to break into the sport of running.

Warm and cool down

As a beginner, this is extremely important, however, commonly overlooked. But by doing some dynamic stretching and three minutes of walking before, and the same amount of both afterward, it will not only make your present run more enjoyable, but will better prepare your body for the next one.

Starting out

In the beginning, choose a flat paved path and walk 30 minutes per day for several days. Do this for three weeks before actually starting to run. This will toughen up your ankles and knees so that they get used to the additional stress.

Then gradually start to include running into your program at the rate of 15 to 60 seconds of running every two to four minutes of walking. As your body adapts, start running more and walking less until you are exclusively running.

Minimize injury and discomfort
Not having the proper footwear or trying to run too soon on an uneven surface is a recipe for injury. Before running, be sure to get fitted with a good pair of running shoes preferably from a running store. Avoid buying online as they may not fit properly.

Women should invest in a sports bra made for running that gives them good support regardless of their breast size. For both men and women, purchase running clothes made from a good wicking material. Check the seams and make sure they are covered; otherwise it can cause painful chafing.

The talk test

To know if you are running at the right speed, use the talk test. While running, you should be able to carry on a broken conversation or recite the Pledge of Allegiance if running alone. If you can’t, then you are running too hard. Slow down!

Mix in other activities

Running is a great sport, but if that is all you do, the constant repetitive action takes its toll on your lower body. Mix in some other activities such as yoga, Pilates, biking, pool exercises, etc. Not only does it give you some variety and prevent boredom, but it uses other muscles and joints and takes some of the pressure off the ones you use when running.

Set a goal

We all must work toward something. Otherwise, we don’t know if we are making progress or not and will soon lose interest. Make your goal something definitive, such as reducing your run time by a certain number of minutes.

Track your progress using something as simple as a stopwatch all the way up to one of the new fitness trackers which measures more than just time.

Use these tips to not only improve your enjoyment of running, but to also reduce the risk of injury.

The Mental Benefits of Running

Exercise, in general, can have many emotional benefits, but running has the most powerful impact on your mental state. If you are a runner, you know the feeling  before your run you may have felt tired or stressed about certain life events, then after your run you feel fantastic!

Our minds are very powerful. Our minds control our thoughts and actions, which can often influence our physical health. Of course running is a great exercise for losing weight and building your cardiovascular health, but it also has benefits to the inner essence of our being. Here’s how:

1) Decreases Stress

Stress is a mental state of mind. No matter how you may hate to admit it or believe it, you do cause your own stress. When you allow the situations in life to affect you internally, you have given power to that particular situation by feeling stress.

Running allows you to focus more on your breathing and the scenery around you. The deep breathing soothes the feelings of fear and/or anxiety that are associated with stress. Running is like a release button to the stress that accumulates in your body.

2) Increases Self-Esteem

When you are running on a regular basis, your self-esteem slowly starts to increase. You start to feel good about yourself, whether it is the weight loss, weight maintenance, or the health benefits that you receive.

As you have the energy and endurance to run, it gives you a sense of needing to take care of your body, so you are less likely to eat foods that are not good for you, or partake in any unhealthy behavior. You see the benefits that running gives you, and you have a sense of pride and respect for your body.

3) Increases Feeling of Freedom

Running is a great way to feel free from all the challenges and obstacles that life sometimes delivers. When you are running, there is a sense of freedom. You can go where you want at the speed you want, and no one and no thoughts can hinder this freedom.

You automatically feel a sense of release from the demanding boss, nagging children, or pushy creditors. Even if for only a moment, you are free and in your own place of silence and calmness that is soothing to both your body and mind. Sometimes it takes physical activity to really quiet our minds  something that is not easy to achieve in modern society.

4) Decreases Depression

When you are running, your brain automatically releases beta endorphins. Beta endorphins are neurotransmitters in the brain that are affected during depression. In depression, the neurotransmitters are not firing properly, and a feeling of overall wellness is decreased.