Why Does Your Side Hurt When Running

Have you ever experienced that sharp, stabbing pain on the side of your abdomen while running? If you have, you’re not alone. This common phenomenon, often referred to as a “side stitch,” can be quite uncomfortable and can hinder your running performance. Today, I’ll delve into the reasons why your side might hurt when you’re out on a run and share some personal insights along the way.

What is a Side Stitch?

A side stitch is a sudden, localized pain that typically occurs on either side of the abdomen, just below the ribs. It can range from a mild discomfort to a sharp, stabbing sensation that makes it difficult to continue running. Side stitches are most commonly experienced by runners, but they can also affect other athletes engaging in activities that involve repetitive torso movements, such as swimming or horseback riding.

Personally, I remember the first time I encountered a side stitch while training for a half marathon. I was halfway through a long run, feeling great, when all of a sudden, a sharp pain struck the right side of my abdomen. It caught me off guard, and I had to slow down significantly to alleviate the discomfort. It was frustrating, to say the least.

Possible Causes

Although the exact cause of side stitches is not fully understood, there are several theories as to why they occur:

  1. Diaphragm Spasms: One theory suggests that side stitches are caused by spasms or cramps in the diaphragm, the muscle responsible for breathing. When you run, especially at a faster pace, your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. This can put stress on the diaphragm, leading to muscle spasms and resulting in a side stitch.
  2. Strained Ligaments: Another theory proposes that side stitches are caused by strained ligaments that connect the liver, spleen, or other organs to the diaphragm. These ligaments may become irritated or stretched during running, causing pain in the side.
  3. Poor Digestion: Digestive issues, such as gas or bloating, can also contribute to side stitches. When your stomach is full, it can put pressure on the diaphragm, leading to discomfort while running.

It’s important to note that the exact cause of side stitches may vary from person to person. What triggers a side stitch for one individual may not affect another. It’s essential to pay attention to your body and identify any patterns or potential triggers that may be causing your side stitches.

Tips to Prevent and Manage Side Stitches

If you’re tired of being sidelined by side stitches, here are some tips that have helped me personally:

  1. Warm-Up Properly: Start your run with a gentle warm-up that includes dynamic stretches and movements to prepare your muscles for the activity. This can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing side stitches.
  2. Breathe Deeply: Focus on taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths while running. This can help relax the diaphragm and prevent muscle spasms.
  3. Watch Your Diet: Avoid eating a large meal or consuming gas-inducing foods right before a run. Opt for lighter, easily digestible meals or snacks that won’t put unnecessary strain on your digestive system.
  4. Gradually Increase Intensity: If you’re new to running or increasing your mileage, make sure to do so gradually. Sudden increases in intensity or distance can put additional stress on your body and increase the likelihood of experiencing side stitches.
  5. Change Your Breathing Pattern: If you feel a side stitch coming on, try altering your breathing pattern. Some runners find relief by exhaling forcefully when their opposite foot strikes the ground.

Remember, everyone is different, and it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you. By implementing these tips and listening to your body, you can minimize the occurrence of side stitches and continue enjoying your runs to the fullest.

In Conclusion

Side stitches can be a frustrating and uncomfortable part of running, but they don’t have to derail your training. By understanding the possible causes and implementing strategies to prevent and manage side stitches, you can stay on track and reach your running goals.

So lace up your shoes, hit the pavement, and don’t let those side stitches hold you back!