Reader to Reader: Stitch trouble

Hi peeps,

Another Reader to Reader question by email, this time from Little T:

"I've just returned to running after four months off with an injury. Unfortunately, I'm getting really bad stitch each time I run - always in the same place, just under my ribcage on the right. I've tried everything to stop it - not eating for 2-3 hours before a run, eating a banana half an hour before, breathing out when my left foot strikes the floor, ditto with my right, relaxing my breathing, slowing down... nothing seems to help. I'm getting to the end of my tether!" (Little T)

Sounds pretty horrible. Any suggestions, other than "stop running and go and lie down instead"?



  • Get one at 12 mins into a run without fail when I am starting back into running after cold/injury especially If I drink too much fluid before I go out. I Cut down on liquid for an hour before just having sips of water every 10 mins and taking water with me. It helped a bit. Someone told me to put my arm up above my head on the opposite side to stitch. Helps a little but usually have to slow down until it stops. Someone also told me to try touch my toes but that made it worse. I don't think there is a cure, just slow down and try jog through it. Don't give up, its a bit off puting, but if you are like me when you build yor fitness levels back up is might stop.
  • If you have a gut, suck it in as tightly as you can while continuing to run.

    If you have no gut, pretend that you do have a gut, and suck it in tightly while continuing to run with a smug expression on your face.
  • Thanks for those suggestions...Batmouse, I'll try cutting down on fluids before i run this lunchtime(I do drink an awful lot of water).

    Cloudburst - I'm like a big old beanpole I'm afraid - not a sniff of a gut...interested to hear more about your theory though. Surely the worst thing you can do if you have a stitch is tense your abs?
  • I've always found that jabbing my hand into my diaphragm, where the pain is, stops it. It's all about stopping the muscle from cramping. Long, deep breaths, from the diaphragm, also help. Hope something works!
  • thanks Bunnyphobia - will try that too. it seems to get worse when i breathe deeply and better when i take shallow breaths. Maybe i'm just deeply weird. it's frustrating because it's the only thing slowing me down at the moment!
  • Have been running for four months. Had exactly the same problem as you. Every time I went out I got a stitch no matter what I tried, ie not eating/drinking for a couple of hours beforehand. Then two weeks ago I bought an underwired sports bra from M&S - quite expensive but it has done the trick for me and haven't had a stitch since. Hope it helps
  • A stitch is the diaphragm cramping up, so your looking to stretch it out again via breathing and if you can use your hands to stretch it, go for it! other iversion techniques include gripping the opposite hand to the stitch to take your mind of it.
    When i used to and still do get a stitch its usually down to lack of salt so it may be worth trying to put a little salt into a drink to mix it up!

    Hope this helps!
  • As far as I was always told as a young 'un, stitches are all to do with lactic acid build-up and as such are a product of not getting enough oxygen. With this in mind the best strategy is NOT to put your handss on your knees, stay upright, slow down a bit and focus on breathing more to get more oxygen in. I think cramping of the diaphragm is hiccups, which is different. For a stitch, you just have to breathe. Unless I've been mis-informed, but that approach always works for me in any event.
  • Since lots of people have been told lots of different things about what causes stitches, do we have any physiologists of any variety out there who can help clear it all up?
  • nowhere near a physiologist but i always thought stitch was cramp of the pancreas, seem to remember being told that at school
  • The common form of stitch encountered by runners occurs on the right side of the body and is due to a spasm of the diaphragm. The reason it is the right hand side is because of the weight of the organs that are attached here. What happens is that you get into a rhythmn of breathing out as the right foot hits the ground which increases the load on the diaphragm and causing the spasm. If you encounter the problem change to breathing out as the left foot hits the ground. To prevent the problem occuring in the first place develop a breathing pattern that alternates between left and right.
  • Little T - the suggestion was one I read somewhere; I don't know the source.

    I think prevention is the key, here. I have only ever had a stitch when running too soon after a substantial quantity of food or drink.

    I have read that the weight of the food / drink pulls down your stomach, causing strains internally, further emphasised by the pounding associated with running.
  • My stitches are usually a result of trapped wind in the stomach, nothing to do with food, and can happen either on an empty stomach, an hour or two after a snack or when fuelling on a long run. I slow down a little, press in the painful area constantly and wriggle it around and it usually loosens it. A couple of good, sometimes forced hearty burps and then it subsides.
  • wow - thanks for all your suggestions. emjaybee - i've tried controlling my breathing and breathing out when my left foot strikes the ground, but to no avail.

    Sal - i have a good Sportjock bra already - no point in me wearing anything underwired because i have grapes rather than melons ;o) - but thanks ever so much anyhow!

    Phillip - i'd never considered that before. i don't actually eat salt on anything (though if i'm going on a long run, i do take isotonic drinks with me), so i shall try your suggestion today.

    and if all else fails, i'll be the one running round Hyde Pk this lunchtime belching for Britain :)
  • When i've spent time with football clubs, before i took to running, i was always made by the physios and nutritionists to have some form of muesli type meal, half an hour after player to utilise the optimum replenishment oppurtunity and sprinkle salt onto it salt is bad for people who don't exercise because they never deplete it.
    Hope it works out for you!;)
  • Hi Little T. I had this problem. I think it was to do with my core stability as it happened no matter what! Keeping the stomach muscles taut helps keep all your innards from being tugged around! Also, I take a short walk, link my hands behind my head and do deep breathing - that seems to help.
  • well - just got back from my run after having tried the 'salt' method...the stitch was still there but not as bad as it has been, so cheers for that Phillip!

    when it did happen, i tried to jab my hand into the painful area like Little Lizard suggested, and my GOD - not only did it hurt, but this huge scary belch erupted and disturbed a flock of pigeons (this can ONLY be a good thing)!!! it's still recurring, but it wasn't as bad today as it has been over the past few weeks.

    i've certainly got a lot of different methods to try - thank you all so much.
  • I get stitch if I eat so much as a mouthful of food for three hours before running. Liek you always on the rigth side under the ribcage. If I try to run through it (as advised) it has made me more prone to stitch on successive runs. I find the only way to prevent stitch is to not eat for at least 3 hours before running. If I eat 2 and half hours before I can almost lay money on getting stitch. Makes planning runs all that more important/difficult but worth it!
  • I logged on to RW this morning to post a question about this very same thing!

    No-one seems to know the answer. Does anyone know what it is in the first place?

    Holding my stomach muscles taut definitely helps to control the pain but doesn't remove it. Can Mike Gratton help?
  • Are you holding a drink in one hand for the whole run? I sometimes get a stitch if I don't change hands with the drinks bottle...hope u get it fixed :-)
  • I always get stitch when I run in the evenings. Since I changed to early mornings the problem has gone away. Drink water and eat a banana about 30 minutes before I run.
  • Aly, i don't ever run with a water bottle...i'm doing most of my running over shorter distances at the moment, so that's not a problem. i'm going to try and pretend i have a beer gut when i run today and suck it in...
  • I have suffered the same problem for about 10 months now, so I know how frustrating it is! I get a stitch without fail, about 10-15mins into every run. Always. It's not food/breathing/drinking/carrying stuff related. The only time I don't get it is if I'm running ONLY uphill. I too have tried everything (and running only uphill all the time isn't really an option!). I've seen two physios and a sports doctor. All have suggested various abdominal/core strength exercises and think it is perhaps a tight psoas or abdominal muscle and have tried manually releasing these muscles. (You can do it yourself - basically just push on where it hurts while lying down until it releases a bit) The latest physio thinks it is more of a postural thing, and that concentrating on running "tall", tilting my pelvis forward, and making sure I don't twist or swing one arm more than the other may help a bit. Can't say any of these things have really helped me so far, but perhaps if you try some you might have some luck?
  • Apparently if your stitch is on the right then it has nothing to do with what you eat or drink If you get a stitch on your right then it is your abdominal muscles which need strenghening to hold in your organs better, which will come with more running or some ab exercises. If you get stitches on your left this is your food/drink as this is where your stomach is.
  • I was going to say the same as hopeless procrastinator, I have the same problem and it is always on my right side. I have been advised that this is due to weak ab muscles. This could be relevant as you have had an extended break due to injury - good luck, hope you get it sorted.
  • h'mmm. Ironically, my abs are pretty good - even though i had to stop running, i kept on doing my core abdominal exercises three times a week - i have to do these because i have lower back problems. i went for a run yesterday - stitch AGAIN - but it did get better after i dug my hand into where it hurt and wiggled it about a bit. the annoying thing is, i've never really suffered from it before! maybe it's just something i'm going to have to get used to...
  • We're all mental! we're in pain why dont we all just quit and stop punishing ourselves :)
  • Oh go on then. You've just convinced me to accept an invitation to go for fish and chips with a group of mates this lunchtime rather than going running...well, it is Friday, after all...
  • if i can play any part in your long term happiness i'm a happy man myself ;)

    Enjoy that meal!
  • Heh heh - well, at least it'll get my salt levels up :o) mmmmmmmmmmmmm...and naturally, will have to be followed by chocolate to balance the sugar levels.

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