Why When Running My Side Hurts

Running is a fantastic form of exercise that offers numerous benefits for both the body and mind. However, many runners, including myself, have experienced the discomfort of a side stitch while running. You know that sharp, stabbing pain on one side of your abdomen that seemingly comes out of nowhere? It can be quite frustrating and may even hinder your running progress. In this article, I will explore the possible causes of side stitches and share some tips on how to prevent and manage them.

What are side stitches?

Side stitches, also known as exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), are a common occurrence among runners. They are characterized by a sharp or cramp-like pain on one side of the abdomen, usually just below the ribs. The exact cause of side stitches is still not fully understood, but there are several theories that can help shed some light on this perplexing issue.

Possible causes of side stitches

One theory suggests that side stitches may be caused by the stretching or spasming of the ligaments that support the internal organs. As you run, the repetitive impact and bouncing motion can put strain on these ligaments, leading to pain.

Another theory points to the diaphragm muscle as a potential culprit. The diaphragm is a large muscle located between the chest and abdomen, responsible for the process of breathing. During running, the diaphragm contracts and relaxes rapidly, and this repetitive motion may contribute to the development of side stitches.

Additionally, factors such as inadequate warm-up, poor breathing techniques, improper hydration, and eating too close to a run can also increase the likelihood of experiencing side stitches.

Tips to prevent side stitches

While side stitches can be unpredictable, there are several strategies you can employ to minimize their occurrence:

  1. Warm up properly before each run to gradually prepare your body for the physical activity.
  2. Pay attention to your breathing technique. Focus on deep and rhythmic breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
  3. Avoid eating large meals or foods high in fat or fiber right before running. Instead, opt for light snacks that are easily digestible.
  4. Stay hydrated throughout the day and drink water before, during, and after your run.
  5. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your runs to allow your body to adapt and build endurance.

Managing side stitches during a run

If you do experience a side stitch during a run, there are a few techniques you can try to alleviate the discomfort:

  • Slow down your pace or walk for a short period of time until the pain subsides.
  • Press your hand or fingers firmly against the affected area and apply gentle pressure.
  • Try taking deep breaths and exhaling forcefully to help relax the diaphragm.

Remember, every runner is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find the strategies that work best for you in preventing and managing side stitches.


While side stitches can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience, they are typically harmless and can be managed with proper prevention techniques and quick thinking during a run. By understanding the possible causes and implementing the suggested strategies, you can minimize the occurrence of side stitches and enjoy your runs to the fullest.