I get a stitch almost every time I go running whether it is 1 hour after food or 3 hours. It isn't stopping me but it is a bit inconvenient and painful. Any ideas what could be causing it???


  • Nobby, you look a little young to be running or even using a computer. Are you writing on behalf of your dad?

    I'm not sure what causes stitch, V-rap probably knows, as she's in the medical profession. I was once told that breathing out hard when your foot hits the ground is good, but I can't remember if it's the side where the stitch is or the other side. Try both. Whatever, concentrating on the breathing usually takes my mind off the stitch and it goes away.
  • Nobby,
    My daughter, (aged 9) also gets stitch every time she runs. She is fit compared to many of her peers, swimming and trampoline every week, plus she assits me in my farlek run (about ten miles) by cycling, my job being to try to catch her (she enjoys it anyway!)
    I found this article, don't know whether it helps:

    Most athletes--especially runners--have suffered a sharp pain in their side known as a stitch. At one time or another, this common phenomenon affects exercisers of all levels. Although there is little research on the causes, stitches commonly occur after eating or drinking before vigorous exercise and happen more often on the upper-right abdomen, under the rib cage.

    There are two competing hypotheses of stitches, and both involve the diaphragm--the dome-like muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. One theory suggests that the jarring movements of vigorous exercise can cause stress on the ligaments that hold the diaphragm muscle in place. The 'blood flow theory' proposes that oxygenated blood is directed away from the diaphragm either for digestion or to nourish working muscles during intense exercise, thereby causing pain in the oxygen-starved area of the diaphragm.

    In one of the few studies on stitches, researchers in New Zealand had 10 college students run a short course five separate times: once without having consumed any liquid beforehand, and four times immediately after consuming one of four drinks: water, a Gatorade-like solution, a cola, or a non-absorbable lactulose (milk sugar) solution. All four liquids produced stitches of similar intensity during the first two runs. Stitch pain declined only with the Gatorade-like solution and by the last two courses, the minimal stitch-producing effects of this liquid were similar to running after ingesting no fluid.

    The subjects reported the location and intensity of stitch pain, and were then selected at random to try several physical manoeuvres to relieve the pain. Neither relaxing the abdominal muscles nor increasing the impact of foot strikes had any effect. However, four maneuvers designed to relieve pain from tugging of the ligaments on the diaphragm proved successful:

    1) bending forward and tightening abdominal muscles,
    2) inhaling more air,
    3) exhaling through pursed lips, and
    4) tightening a belt around the abdomen.

    The researchers concluded that stitches probably arise when a fluid-engorged gut tugs on visceral ligaments. If this is true, the most important preventive measure is to avoid food and drink for a significant period before exercise. Training the respiratory muscles through 'belly breathing', where the abdomen rises and lowers during deep breathing, may help as well.

  • I have had a similar problem for over 5 years but no physio, stretching, cutting down of sdrink etc seems to help. I ran regularly for 8 years with no problems, took some time out in my 20's and played rugby; one day when running I felt a little 'pop' on my right side between my ribs and hip but never thought anything of it. Over the next few weeks I kept getting a pain in my side which sometimes came on my left as well which sometimes was so bad I had to stop and other times was manageable if I switched breathing etc. I had a MRI scan,x-ray which didn't show up anything apart from the fact that I had a missing spinus procus and my ribs were twisting slightly.

    I have been given numerous exercises over the years by various physios, have done ball exercises, band exercises, yoga, pilates and am not overweight, yet it still comes up and I am never sure day to day how I will feel.

    I am getting near the end of my tether as I am nervous to join a club or do anything competitive as I just don't know what will happen.

    Anyone else have anything similar as I feel like I am continually 'weird'!

  • I used to get stitch terribly, almost as soon as I put on my trainers! I was never a serious runner, it just added to my sporting 'fun'. Then I taught myself to swim properly and I found that the breathing technique I used for swimming actually helped with my running. Swimming requires you to take a large amount of air in in a relatively short amount of time AND to completely expel it explosively into the water before the next intake. This emptying is what I find myself doing on runs, not on every breathe but just periodically. I just seem to know when it is needed and I have never ever had stitch since no matter what I have eaten or drunk beforehand. Perhaps you could try a really big heavy outbreath with pursed lips maybe every 3 or 4 minutes. Maybe learning a good swimming technique would help. I am not a medical person or elite athlete of any sort but from experience I think that breathing is the key. Good luck
  • As I said Bryan I think that its all in the breathing. When I'm running at a steady pace, a long, explosive outbreath (with real passion) seems to give renewed vigour. Maybe in doing this more waste is got rid of? I'll try your method if ever it is needed but if my head blows up after 15 seconds I know where to come!
  • This problem is a real pain for me too. I posted a separate message without knowing so many other people suffered this - I could have got all this good advice all this time!

    Thanks everyone for giving me a real laugh this morning - I feel a lot better about it
  • my stitch problem has started to go.

    i started to deregulate my breathing as i run. ie i have started to breath as i need to rather than in time with my strides.

    i managed the GNR almost stitch free. i only got one on the hills which was when i had to breath regularly with every 2 steps but when i reached the top i began to breath independantly of my strides and the stitch dissappeared.

    this might not be good advice but it works for me.


  • I am taking a lady in her late forties out running. she has only just taken up this athletic pursuit, and she gets stitch in both sides, after about one mile of easy jog/running, she is desperate to keep running and I would be glad if any female of around the sme age can give me some advice to pass on to her? I am a 73 year old runner, who believe it nor has never suffered stitch in my four and a half years or running.
    Thanks for any help.Don
  • I've just had the most disappointing training run ever! I've been getting up early every day this week to go for a run, no problem - no stiches. Then today I went for a run after work instead, managed about a mile and had to slow down so much my boyfriend also my running partner said I was practiacally going backwards! I had really been concerntrating on my breating during the run, getting big lung fulls of air but that didn't help, in fact I think it made it worse.
    I have a cup of tea and a biscuit about half an hour before I ran (in the morning I run on an empty stomach)
    I would welcome some suggestions as I want to do the Wobrun 10K in feburary and at the moment my sticjes are holding me back.
  • I have been running at quite a good level for about 3 years and i have suddenly started to develop stitches especially in my left side.

    So far i have had the stop only once but its far from easy running with the pain.

    Im not sure why i have started to develop them but i have recently had some kind of nasty virus which affected my whole body, i started getting shoulder ache and back ache so i hope its all connected.

    I have read all the various comments above but its strange that i have never given breathing a second thought when i run..i just run.

    With the spring/summer season coming up i need to find a way to stop the stitches occuring and more importantly getting rid of them once they strike.

    If i stop during a race i will lose vital time.
  • I always get a stitch when I go running at any time that's after breakfast, and always on the right hand side.

    My training partner taught me to press my hand very hard over the sore area, to take a very very deep breath, and then try to expel as much air as possible, and to try and breathe out when the foor on the opposite side to the stitch hits the ground. It looks a bit silly, and takes a few repetitions to work, but I've found this effective at 'working it out'.

    I also find running up an incline helps, though maybe that's just because the effort involved takes your mind off the stitch!

    I do believe that the food/fluid filled gut tugging on peritoneum and ligaments is the case with me, as I definitely have a lot less discomfort running in the morning on an empty stomach. Need to find some way of banishing stitches before they start though, as races never seem to start at 7am ;)

    Still, I hope this advice helps someone, it came to me from a very knowledgeable runner, and it's helped me a lot.
  • I also noticed that pressing in the area of the stitch does help although like you say its a bit strange to look at and it also slows you down a bit.

    I`ll try the deep breathing and let you know how i get on.
  • re the shoulder-ache, if you get that when running, it's very likely to be connected to the stitch...pain from the diaphragm is often referred to the shoulder. Not 100% sure on the back pain, but it may well be connected, if only because of 'hunching up' to try and minimise the stitch and shoulder pain. I do that and have to consciously correct myself. Shoulder and arm pain in the left side though is, as you probably know, potentially connected to heart trouble, so erring on the side of caution in that case is always good.

    Sorry I didn't see what you put about that before, or I'd have added it to my last post!
  • Since I posted my first message I've run more and understand why I persoanlly get stiches much better. If I push myself harder than normal, ie speed work, I tend to hold my breath, then about 30 seconds later I get a stitch! So now I know what causes it for me I try to focus on my breathing and it's much better. If I do get a stitch I've learnt to run through them by either running with my hand over the area or pinching it.Ok it looks odd by it hurts less! I can run in the morning or after work now and I haven't had to stop running for ages. Now I'm a bit better at running, and my breathing is better under control I don't have the problem half as much.
  • Thats great to hear.

    I went and did 10 miles this morning without a stitch at all, i didnt do anything different than normal.

    I wonder if sometimes they are a mental thing in which if you think about it eventually you get one.
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