You’re pounding the pavement, enjoying the cool breeze across your face as you sweat out your stress for the day. And then it hits: a jabbing pain in your lower abdomen that doesn’t dwindle.
The dreaded side stitch strikes again!
This pesky problem is actually called “exercise-related transient abdominal pain,” and approximately 70 percent of runners report experiencing it in the past year, according to an article in Sports Medicine.
While scientists have been exploring the causes of this pain for years, they still don’t have a concrete answer as to why it forms, says Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist at Running Strong in Atlanta.
Here’s what might help: Many runners breathe in a symmetrical pattern, inhaling and exhaling on the same footfall each time, Hamilton says.
But if you alter your breathing rhythm, you change the biomechanics of how you experience loads while you’re running, so that one side of your body isn’t continually bracing your weight, she says.
Try to mix up your breathing pattern on a run. Inhale for two steps and exhale for three, so that your next inhalation will occur on your opposite foot, Hamilton says. This should help reduce some of the strain you put on one side of your body.
If you still feel pain, raise your arm that’s on the same side as the stitch, and place your hand on the back of your head. This stretches your diaphragm, the muscle that expands and contracts with each breath you take, and helps halt the spasms that translate into a stinging cramp in your abdomen.
You should also try bending forward and poking on the cramp with your fingertips, and blowing out through pursed lips, Hamilton suggests. This will help relieve your overworked diaphragm. Repeat two or three times until the pain subsides.
Hamilton also advises waiting 2 hours to run after you eat or drink. Less blood flows to your diaphragm when your body is digesting, which can result in these jabs of pain.