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Jude's avatar

Lately, I've been getting a cramp in my side when running. Why does this happen and how can I get rid of it (I usually have to stop running for a bit)

Asked by Jude (31977 points ) March 11th, 2010

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

10 Answers

shadowofdeath's avatar

Proper hydration. not to mention it helps if you didnt eat just before but are not hungry, perhaps try some protein(bar, mix, etc)

lilikoi's avatar

My cross country coach told us that it has something to do with breathing (lack of oxygen I think) – like when you go straight into a sprint instead of taking time to ease into your pace. Sometimes eating or not eating can trigger it as well, in my experience.

njnyjobs's avatar

aka Side Stitch

Most of us who run experience them at one time or another. That sharp twinge of pain just below the rib cage usually on the right. It is particularly common in runners and has been known to slow some down to a walk until the pain subsides.

Up until recently there was no clear explanation for the cause of this annoying cramp, also called exercise related transient abdominal pain (ETAP). Now researchers believe that the side stitch is caused by stretching the ligaments that extend from the diaphragm to the internal organs, particularly the liver. The jarring motion of running while breathing in and out stretches these ligaments. Runners tend to exhale every two or four steps. Most people exhale as the left foot hits the ground, but some people exhale when the right foot hits the ground. It is the later group who seem more prone to get side stitches.

Exhaling when the right foot hits the ground causes greater forces on the liver (which is on the right side just below the rib cage). So just as the liver is dropping down the diaphragm raises for the exhalation. It is believed this repeated stretching leads to spasms in the diaphragm.

Stopping a Side Stitch
To stop a side stitch when running, stop running and place your hand into the right side of your belly and push up, lifting the liver slightly. Inhale and exhale evenly as you push up.

Preventing a Side Stitch
To prevent a side stitch, take even, deep breaths while running. Shallow breathing tends to increase the risk of cramping because the diaphragm is always slightly raised and never lowers far enough to allow the ligaments to relax. When this happens the diaphragm becomes stressed and a spasm or “stitch” is more likely.

Some other ways to alleviate the pain of a side stitch include:

•Time your eating. Having food in your stomach during a workout may increase cramping by creating more force on the ligaments (avoid eating one to two hours before a workout)
•Stretching may prevent or relieve a cramp. Raise your right arm straight up and lean toward the left. Hold for 30 seconds, release, then stretch the other side.
•Slow down your pace until pain lessens.
•Breathe deep to stretch the diaphragm.
•Drink before exercise; dehydration can increase muscle cramps.
•Massage or press on the area with pain. Bend forward to stretch the diaphragm and ease the pain.
•* If you continue to experience pain, see your doctor.

Source: Morton DP, Callister R

unique's avatar

yeah, paying close attention to my breathing helps me with stitches.

Jude's avatar

@all Thanks! Very helpful.

deni's avatar

practice breathing deeper! even when you aren’t running, if you’re just sitting around. it’s so good for you and i have to assume it would at least help with the side stitches while you are running.

robmandu's avatar

Exhaling as the left foot strikes the ground – as @njnyjobs suggests – seems to reverse an oncoming cramp for me. Either it really works due to the stretched ligament theory or I get so focused on monitoring my breathing I forget to pay attention.

For collarbone cramps, I just run thru them. I think the more often you run thru a cramp, the better you are at doing it again. Still, it sucks.

nimarka1's avatar

when this happens put your hand over your head/behing your ears. it allows your lungs to fully expand when you lack oxygen. Some other pains are triggered from dehydration. make sure to drink enough water, maybe gatorade or something of the sort with electrolytes; when you sweat you lose electrolytes – and need to be replaced

josie's avatar

The diaphram has muscle fibers that make it decend from the thoracic cavity. If one is not in good shape, the muscles in the diaphram fatigue and cramp up. That is what causes a side stitch. Make sure that when you begin to get into shape, that you learn how to breath properly and with a rhythm.

kaylamo's avatar

What I have found to help is when I’m running and I get a cramp on one side, I notice that it is typically the foot that is striking the ground as I am exhaling. Try to change your breathing to exhaling on the other foot. It creates a new rhythm for me and makes the side ache go away. Hope this helps!

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