Getting a stitch is probably one of the most common reasons why people struggle to keep running. It is something that most novice runners will suffer from at some stage. Even the most experienced runner can suffer from the stitch.
There is a bit of a mystery as to why this happens, however, any one of the following can contribute to this discomfort; running too soon after eating, not drinking enough, setting off too fast, change of pace, lack of fitness, lack of core strength, poor posture, shallow breathing or tension.
Research shows that a stitch is caused by a muscle spasm of the ‘diaphragm’. The diaphragm is a muscle which separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The diaphragm helps with our breathing. When we exhale it moves up and when we inhale it moves down. As we run our internal organs move up and down and can pull against the diaphragm thus causing a muscle spasm and the resulting stitch. The largest organ in the abdominal cavity is the liver which usually causes this problem. The liver is situated in the upper right abdomen and this is why a stitch is often felt on the right side.
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from stitch there are a number of ways to alleviate this. The prime aim is to relax the associated muscles. This can be done by focusing on relaxed running. Pursing the lips whilst exhaling (similar to blowing candles out), slow the pace and massage the affected area, raise one or both arms to stretch out the pain. Another method which often works is to focus on your breathing. It may surprise you to learn that every time you exhale the same foot lands on the ground. Once you have established which foot this is, simply change your breathing pattern so you are exhaling on the opposite foot. Be amazed how quickly your stitch disappears.