Tips to Avoid a Side Stitch

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It happens when you least expect it—a sharp, unwelcome pain in the upper right side of your abdomen. This piercing pain is known as a side stitch, and approximately 60 percent of athletes experience it at some point in their training.

While research is inconclusive about the causes of side stitch, reports that it can happen if you eat heavy foods or drink too much fluid prior to workouts. Reduce the chance of getting—and help alleviate—a side stitch by following these two tips:

  • Record your pre-workout food and fluid intake. This will allow you to assess your diet and make portion tweaks appropriately. You'll be able to better determine how much volume to consume pre-training.
  • Take deep breaths. This can help push out the pain. Start by bending forward, take a deep breath, then exhale slowly as if you're blowing out a candle suggests stretching the diaphragm, since most side stitches are due to a spasm in this area. Push your fist under your ribcage, then bend over at an approximately 90-degree angle and run for 10 steps.

Deep breathing is key, says Dan Graham, assistant trainer for the University of Georgia track and field team. "When you're practicing, pay attention to your breathing," he says. Graham advises against short, rapid shallow breaths, because they don't allow enough oxygen to get into your body.

Click here for more breathing advice from Graham.


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