Stomach cramps and stitches while running? Fix it with these tips

Whether you're running on a treadmill or a park, side cramps can ruin a good workout in no time. Know the causes and ways to prevent it here.

stomach stitch causes
Does your tummy hurt too when you run? Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Aayushi Gupta Published on: 21 January 2022, 08:00 am IST
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While running, you suddenly experience dreadful pain in one side of your stomach. Who hasn’t felt that shooting pain? Well, everyone has experienced it at least once in their life. It may feel like someone is punching you on the side or that your body is revolting. These side stomach cramps – or side stitches – can be bad!

A side stitch is officially known as exercise related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), which refers to the often workout running (but temporary) cramps in the side of the stomach. Don’t get worried because the running side stitches are mostly harmless, even if they are really painful and can derail your training and racing attempts.

Wonder where do side stitches come from?

In most cases, side stitches that occur while running is a muscle spasm of the diaphragm (and its supporting ligaments), the muscle directly below your rib cage. Also, when you pound your feet on a hard surface, it causes your liver to drop down. These combined movements stretch the ligaments in your abdomen and may cause them to spasm, producing a sharp and persistent pain below the ribs or just above the pelvic bone. HealthShots got in touch with Dr Pritam Moon, consultant physician, Wockhardt Hospitals Mira Road, Mumbai, to understand the various causes of stomach cramps while running.

Here are the causes of side stomach stitches or crampes:

1. Age

Those who are young and are active may have a side stitch. Not warming up properly and doing high-intensity exercise can also be the reasons.

stomach stitch
If you run, you’ve gotta be careful of those cramps! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Poor eating habits just before the workout

Eating a heavy meal that is loaded with fats and calories just before running can lead to a side stitch.

3. Bad posture

People with poor posture are more susceptible to side stitches and the worse the posture, the worst the stitch.

4. Temperature

Running in the cold weather can also be the cause of a side stitch.

5. Muscle cramps

A side stitch can also be felt due to muscle cramps.

Also, read: Here’s why running makes you poop!

6. Chest breathing

This is seen when one takes short breaths instead of deep, belly breaths. Thus, the muscles don’t get enough oxygen and they tend to get fatigued while you are running and invite cramps that are associated with a side stitch.

7. Forceful movements

The continual bouncing up and down can create a forceful impact on your ligaments. As the body jostles, the ligaments and organs have additional work to do with all the extra pressure which can lead to stomach cramps.

Ways to stop or reduce stomach stitches while running

1. Stretching before running

Don’t forget to stretch the arms overhead and then over to the side of the stitch to get that much-needed relief from the side stitch. Try to maintain a proper spine posture while running.

stomach stitch
Prevent stomach stitches by stretching before a run. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Slow down while running

You shouldn’t just abruptly increase your pace. Go slow while running and follow a proper breathing technique.

3. Work on your core

Running consumes a lot of strength from the core. That’s why building the core strength is really important to fight off side stitches.

Also, read: Why must women runners be more conscious about calcium intake?

4. Try belly breathing

Belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) can be tried wherein one is required to slow down and bring focus on the breathing pattern. If you experience aside stitch, pause running and take a few belly breaths. You will have to inhale and exhale fully and deeply.

5. Improve your posture

Avoid hunching at shoulders and bending forward at the waist. Both will make it more difficult for you to breathe properly, leading to side stomach stitches and cramps.

6. Avoid certain foods

Do not eat high-fat and high-fiber foods just before running and try to stay hydrated.

stomach stitch
Watch your diet. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

7. Improve core strength

For a good run, follow those exercises on a regular basis which will build your core strength. A strong core will ultimately help you to run properly.

8. Don’t drink too much water

Staying hydrated while running is really important but drinking too much water before a run because this could make cramps and digestive irritation worse.

9. Take breaks in between

If you are short of breath or tired while running, stop and take a break for a while.

Stay calm, and relaxed while running!

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About the Author
Aayushi Gupta Aayushi Gupta

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information.

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