stitches and stiff back

i've got two problems at the moment which i was hoping to get some help on.

first, i seem to be very prone to getting a stitch in my right side when i run or swim at the moment. does anyone know what causes a stitch and therefore how i can stop getting them?

secondly, when i run i get a really, really sore and stiff upper back, sort of between the shoulderblades. it gets so sore it almost stops me running. i try stretching my neck and that releases it for a minute but then it comes right back. it only starts to come on after about 3miles. any ideas?



  • Susannah,

    Stitches are caused either by a lack of fluid or too little salt/electrolyte type things or eating/drinking too much before running. I eat very very little salt and sometimes have problems with stitches. My doc told me to try and include a little more salt in my diet as when you run you sweat... when you sweat you lose salt... that salt needs to be replaced. I sometimes use sports drinks which help replace the salts and electrolytes but I think it is probably better to try and get it from your diet. So, lots and lots of fluids (little and often and not too much just before you run as this can cause a stitch in itself) and some more salt in the diet.

    As far as the sore upper back, I'm not too sure but it may be caused by having too much tension in your shoulders when you run... I run with too much tension in my upper body and this causes me to get sore shoulders after a decent length run. I try to loosen my arms and shake them off regularly as I run... I find that this helps but I could do with concentrating more on relaxing my upper body when I run... not much help I'm afraid but at least you know you're not the only one.


  • ohh I had both those problems, the advice I got was when I got my stich was to beath in whilst putting my arms behind my back and then breathe really heavily out as you bring your arms to the front again trying to relax as much as possible. ok you look stupid but it works.
    As for the tense shoulders, I was told every now and then just let my arms go loose by my side for a couple of minutes (whilst continuing running!!)

    Gordon - thanks for the salt tip, that maybe my problem with stiches as I don't like salt so don't use it.
  • Hi!

    I've been running for years and am still subject to the dreaded right sided stitch, usually about 5 miles into a run. I tried loads of suggestions, with only sporadic success, but the most successful for me is also the toughest: when the stitch happens, run FASTER. It's counterintuitive, but effective.

  • thanks for that,
    i don't really use a lot of salt in my diet either so maybe i'll try adding a bit more to a drink an hour before the run, that might help?
    as for the sore back, i'll try to think about loosening my shoulders - but that's hard work for an hour! maybe as i get better at running that will go away as i'll be more relaxed?
    anyway, its good to know i'm not the only one!
  • Dunno when the best time to eat the salt is. But I guess we have to consider the fact that salt can dehydrate and too much salt also has obvious effects on health.
  • Bizarre idea - carry a stone.

    No, really!

    Just the other day I got a pebble caught in the treads of my shoe and, annoyed with the clicking sound it made on the road, I stopped and took it out, and started running again without dropping the stone. As I ran I toyed with this little pebble in my hand and discovered that it helped me relax my arms and shoulders much more. I didn't think I had very tense shoulders when I ran until I did this and could feel the difference when I was relaxed.

    Surely that has to be worth a try as a cheap (potential) solution to your back problem? (I can't see it helping with the stitch though!)
  • One of the very very elite runners (came third or fourth in the commonwealth tri I think) carries a stone in each hand to remind him to relax his shoulders... I completely forgot about that until you mentioned it Ross. You are among great company.
  • I always thought a stitch was caused by your internal 'bits' etc moving as you run and pulling at the tendons that support them. Not eating/drinking too much before you run keeps the weight in your stomach down which helps. The right side is usually worse because you have more 'bits' on that side of your body. Tensing your stomach muscles as you run (as if you are about to take a punch to the stomach) usually helps.
    I thought salt was more of a cramp prevention thing?
  • Stitches are a kinda cramp I think... I'm sure that's what my doc told me.
  • There is an article on stitches in the latest issue of RW with some great cartoons for helping you remember what to do (which I never can when out running). I did discover the other day that slowing down my breathing worked a treat (I guess I must have been huffing and puffing and not actually getting any oxygen to those tissues, hence the stitch).
    Re: sore shoulders - imagine you are carrying a crisp between finger and thumb which mustn't break -
    I have 'done something' to my left calf. Tried a run today and gave up after 5 minutes ****
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