6 Ways to Stop a Stitch in its Tracks

side stitch

Just when you’ve finally worked up the motivation to take on that long run or power walk, have your tunes ready to go and are just getting started… bam! Side stitch! Your exercise session is ruined as soon as it began.

The infamous side stitch, also known as exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), is essentially a cramp in your diaphragm that occurs during exercise. It is most notoriously known to happen to runners, though it can crop up during any kind of strenuous exercise.

While the exact cause of a side stitch is not known, it may be a result of several factors, including the lungs and lower muscles pinching the diaphragm from above and below while working out, the ligaments of the diaphragm stretching too far, dehydration or even gas.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid a side stitch, as well as techniques you can utilize to nix one if it happens.

Wait one hour after eating

Exercising too soon after eating can be a recipe for a side stitch. Wait at least an hour, two if you are highly prone to side stitches, after eating before heading out for your run. Also, it may be beneficial to choose a light meal of lean proteins, fruits and veggies before your exercise session, as a heavier meal may increase the chance of a side stitch once you get going.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, as dehydration can encourage a side stitch, as well as lead to a whole host of other issues.

Warm up

Before you break into a full run, fast-paced walk or other type of exercise you choose, start slow by walking at a normal pace and working your way up to full power. Side stitches often stem from trying to go too hard too fast. Warming up and gradually reaching your desired pace can help to keep the side pains away, as well as prevent other injuries, such as muscle strains, from occurring.

Practice running fast

Beyond a simple warm up (which is essential), running fast in short stints is a great way to build up to pain-free endurance running. Start by running for only a minute at top speed, after you’ve worked up to that speed from a slower pace. Gradually increase your time until you’re running at your desired speed for your desired duration. This also applies to any other type of exercise.

Strengthen your abs

Strengthening your abdominal muscles may do wonders in preventing side stitches, as exercising your core also strengthens the muscles of the diaphragm. Aim for at least 15 minutes three times a week. Many yoga positions, as well as good old fashioned crunches, are great choices to work your core.

Slow down

If a side stitch occurs, the first thing to try would be to slow your pace down, and regulate your breathing. Be sure to exhale fully and breathe in slowly, then work your way back up to full speed once the pain has dissipated.

Stop and breathe

If slowing down doesn’t do the trick, stop for a moment to rest, take a drink of water, and breathe. Breathing through your diaphragm is preferable. As you inhale, push the air down into your stomach, and as you exhale, let it out and let your diaphragm muscles relax. Controlling your breath once you get going again is also essential.

Massage the stitch away

Sometimes all it takes to get rid of a side stitch is to stop and massage out the pain. Lightly massaging on and around the area, paying particular attention to any knots or spots of tension you find, can help the pain to dissolve quickly.

You can use your fingertips, or gently roll your knuckles across the area, depending on what feels best to you. Remember to breathe deeply and exhale completely as you massage.

side stitchPoke and blow

If the light massage isn’t quite enough, you can try the so-called ‘poke and blow’ method. Simply push two or three fingers slowly and deeply into the stitch while sharply blowing out all of the air in your lungs.

Release the pressure when it becomes too much, and repeat if necessary until the stitch is gone. Make sure you don’t poke too hard! You can also alternate this method with a light massage around the area until the stitch disappears.

-The Alternative Daily


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