Why Do I Get Side Pain When Running

When I first started running, I was excited to embark on this new fitness journey. However, I quickly realized that running wasn’t always smooth sailing. One of the most common issues I faced was side pain during my runs. It was frustrating and seemed to hinder my progress. After doing some research and speaking with experts, I discovered several reasons why we experience side pain while running.

The Stitch

One of the most common causes of side pain while running is known as a stitch or exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP). This sharp, localized pain often occurs on one side of the abdomen, just below the ribs. The exact cause of a stitch is still unclear, but several factors have been identified.

One theory suggests that a stitch is caused by the diaphragm muscle becoming stressed or strained during exercise. Another theory suggests that the ligaments that connect the liver to the diaphragm may be responsible for the pain. Regardless of the actual cause, there are a few strategies that can help alleviate the discomfort.

Tips to Prevent and Manage a Stitch

  1. Avoid eating a large meal before running. A heavy meal can put pressure on your diaphragm and increase the chances of experiencing a stitch.
  2. Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after your run. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and increase the likelihood of side pain.
  3. Focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths and try to exhale forcefully as you land on the opposite foot of the side where you feel the pain.
  4. If you do experience a stitch, slow down your pace, and press your hand against the affected area while taking deep breaths. This can help alleviate the pain.

Poor Breathing Technique

Another common culprit for side pain while running is poor breathing technique. When we run, our breathing patterns can affect the movement of our diaphragm and other muscles involved in respiration.

Shallow breathing or holding our breath while running can lead to tension in the diaphragm and result in side pain. It’s important to focus on deep, rhythmic breathing to prevent this issue.

Tips for Proper Breathing Technique

  • Take deep breaths, expanding your belly as you inhale, and contract as you exhale.
  • Focus on breathing rhythmically with your strides. Try to coordinate your breaths with your footfalls to establish a steady pattern.
  • Practice belly breathing exercises outside of running to strengthen your diaphragm and improve overall breathing technique.

Running Form and Muscle Imbalances

Running with improper form can also contribute to side pain. One common running mistake is leaning too far forward, which puts extra stress on the diaphragm and can lead to discomfort. Additionally, muscle imbalances in the core or hips can also cause side pain while running.

It’s important to maintain good posture and engage the core muscles while running. Strengthening the core and addressing muscle imbalances through targeted exercises can help alleviate side pain and improve overall running performance.

Tips for Proper Running Form and Core Strengthening

  • Maintain an upright posture while running, avoiding excessive leaning forward or backward.
  • Engage your core muscles by imagining pulling your belly button towards your spine.
  • Incorporate core-strengthening exercises such as planks, Russian twists, and bicycle crunches into your fitness routine.


Experiencing side pain while running can be frustrating, but there are steps you can take to prevent and manage it. By paying attention to your breathing technique, maintaining proper running form, and addressing muscle imbalances, you can minimize the risk of side pain and enjoy a more comfortable running experience.

Remember to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. If side pain persists or worsens, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying issues.