Arch pain

What are the usual causes of a side stitch?

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Many runners have experienced a side stitch at some point during exercise. The localized, piercing twinge of pain occurs right beneath the rib cage that typically manifests on the right lower abdomen. It is quite common among runners and has been known to put down athletes to a walking pace until the pain diminishes.

Currently, the troublesome abdominal pain is referred to as “exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP)”. The pain can put athletes who run and swim to a stop and stay on the side in anguish.

What are the possible causes?

Even though there is no defining explanation for the exact cause of a side stitch, there are numerous substantial ideas. Mostly, it has a strong connection on what is eaten prior to exercise.

Side stitch
Based on a number of studies, side stitch is quite common in swimming and running.

Based on a number of studies, side stitch is quite common in swimming and running. The pain is characterized as well-localized in the left or right lower abdomen. The pain often interferes with performance but not linked to the body mass index or gender. Additionally, it is less common among the older athletes.

A vital factor in developing a side stitch appears to be the timing of the pre-event meal. In one study, consumption of altered fruit juices and beverages packed with carbohydrates and osmolality either before or during physical activity triggered the start of a side stitch especially among those who are at high risk.

What to do for a side stitch?

Once an individual develops a side stitch while running, he/she must stop running and place his/her hand on the right side of the belly and push up while breathing in and out evenly. While swimming or running, perform even, deep breaths.

Preventive measures

  • Schedule the meal before activity to allow it to be properly digested before the activity
  • It is not recommended to drink any reconstituted fruit-based juices that contain large amounts of carbohydrate and osmolality before and during physical activity.
  • Stretching can help relieve the pain of a side stitch. Simply elevate the right arm straight upwards and lean towards the left. Hold the position for 30 seconds, release and stretch the other side.
  • Slow down the pace until the pain subsides.
  • Press or massage the sore area. Bend forward to stretch out the diaphragm and alleviate the pain.

In case the pain of the side stitch persists, it is best to set an appointment with a doctor.

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