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Abdominal Cramps "Side Stitches" while running

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 07, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Ever since I can remember, I've ALWAYS gotten cramps when running, usually on my left side in the middle of my 'stomach' - about where my rib cage ends. Best described as a "side stitch."

Then again, I've always been overweight and out of shape.

It's gotten to the point that I can mostly ignore it and keep running, but if I stop running the cramp gets worse before it gets better. What's causing this thing that I've had for ever?

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on June 08, 2011
at 07:26 PM

i dont think that you should drink water while youre running, except as needed to keep your mouth from drying out, but like i said, you should run with a belly full of water. you do need to stay hydrated, and by that i mean make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the days, and perhaps some extra THE NIGHT BEFORE you are planning to go running.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on June 08, 2011
at 03:22 PM

You should try it for as many steps as you are comfortable so that you will be breathing deeper.

9aa2a816c61170cc0183a68be0386ba5

(1702)

on June 08, 2011
at 12:23 PM

Perhaps related to Graham's comment but yesterday I went running without water with me and didn't get the side stitch. When I was running before I had a glass of water before and was drinking water during the run.

9aa2a816c61170cc0183a68be0386ba5

(1702)

on June 08, 2011
at 12:21 PM

Usually how I do it, with the pace I'm running is step step (breathing in) step step (breathing out) so it's all nice and regulated. I'll give it a shot for maybe 3 steps!

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 07, 2011
at 03:54 PM

Excellent answer. Belly breathing is great, lifters use it all the time to give something akin to thoracic rigidity under heavy weight.

9f933fedd259b97a5369c3ee5dae3151

(341)

on June 07, 2011
at 03:31 PM

Yes! Stitches are caused by lactic acid buildup - a result of anaerobic exercise (lack of oxygen when burning energy, using CO2 instead). A little tip when you've got one - breathe out for longer than you're breathing in, get's out all the stale CO2 at the bottom of your lungs. I like the counting-step way too, you get a good breathing/running rhythm.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on June 07, 2011
at 03:31 PM

On a side note: You should read Sleep, Sugar and Survival. It gives a good explanation on how running more than once every ten days for a short burst raises our cortisol levels. According to the book, when we run, our bodies think we are about to be devoured by a lion.

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4 Answers

2
D42879f1b49ff45ed74a387e1e21fe43

(40)

on June 07, 2011
at 03:40 PM

Side stitches are actually cramps in the diaphragm. As others have suggested, try to breath deeply while running aka breath with your belly not your chest. Sounds odd but ideally you should be extending your belly with each breath which pulls down on the diaphragm and allows the lungs to fill fully.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 07, 2011
at 03:54 PM

Excellent answer. Belly breathing is great, lifters use it all the time to give something akin to thoracic rigidity under heavy weight.

2
6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on June 07, 2011
at 03:29 PM

Your breathing is the likely cause. When you get a stitch in your side, try to breathe very deeply and slowly until it goes away. Better yet, prevent the cramps by breathing properly. Try breathing in for 4 or 5 steps on your right foot and then out for the same amount of steps (adjust as necessary for your comfort). It will prevent the cramps.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on June 07, 2011
at 03:31 PM

On a side note: You should read Sleep, Sugar and Survival. It gives a good explanation on how running more than once every ten days for a short burst raises our cortisol levels. According to the book, when we run, our bodies think we are about to be devoured by a lion.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on June 08, 2011
at 03:22 PM

You should try it for as many steps as you are comfortable so that you will be breathing deeper.

9f933fedd259b97a5369c3ee5dae3151

(341)

on June 07, 2011
at 03:31 PM

Yes! Stitches are caused by lactic acid buildup - a result of anaerobic exercise (lack of oxygen when burning energy, using CO2 instead). A little tip when you've got one - breathe out for longer than you're breathing in, get's out all the stale CO2 at the bottom of your lungs. I like the counting-step way too, you get a good breathing/running rhythm.

9aa2a816c61170cc0183a68be0386ba5

(1702)

on June 08, 2011
at 12:21 PM

Usually how I do it, with the pace I'm running is step step (breathing in) step step (breathing out) so it's all nice and regulated. I'll give it a shot for maybe 3 steps!

0
Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on June 07, 2011
at 06:57 PM

i agree with what everyone has said, but will also mention hydration. youre more likely to cramp up when youre not well hydrated. not that you should go running with a belly full of water, but in general make sure youre drinking enough water.

9aa2a816c61170cc0183a68be0386ba5

(1702)

on June 08, 2011
at 12:23 PM

Perhaps related to Graham's comment but yesterday I went running without water with me and didn't get the side stitch. When I was running before I had a glass of water before and was drinking water during the run.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on June 08, 2011
at 07:26 PM

i dont think that you should drink water while youre running, except as needed to keep your mouth from drying out, but like i said, you should run with a belly full of water. you do need to stay hydrated, and by that i mean make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the days, and perhaps some extra THE NIGHT BEFORE you are planning to go running.

0
F73d5dcd35ac9a7013f4ed3dc0ce1229

on June 07, 2011
at 02:52 PM

When I used to run, I noticed that I only ever got side stitches when I ran after eating within about 6 hours prior to running. I almost always ran on a 12-16 hour fast.

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