How to Deal with Side Stitches While Running: 10 Expert Tips
How to Deal with Side Stitches While Running: 10 Expert Tips

How to Deal with Side Stitches While Running: 10 Expert Tips

Are you a passionate runner who loves hitting the pavement, trail, or track to get your daily dose of exercise? If so, you’ve likely encountered the dreaded side stitch at some point during your runs. That sharp, stabbing pain beneath your ribcage can be a real buzzkill, but fear not! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deep into the world of side stitches and arm you with the knowledge and techniques needed to overcome them. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or just getting started, these expert tips will help you conquer those pesky side stitches and keep you running strong.

Understanding Side Stitches

Before we dive into the solutions, it’s crucial to understand what side stitches are and why they happen. A side stitch, also known as exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), is a sharp pain that typically occurs on the right side of the abdomen, just below the ribcage. It can also manifest on the left side but is less common.

What Causes Side Stitches?

The exact cause of side stitches is still a subject of debate among researchers, but several theories have emerged. Some potential triggers include:

  1. Diaphragm Spasms: One prevailing theory is that side stitches occur due to spasms or cramps in the diaphragm, the muscle responsible for breathing. The bouncing motion of running may strain the diaphragm, leading to pain.
  2. Reduced Blood Flow: Running redirects blood flow away from the diaphragm to the working muscles in the legs. This reduced blood supply to the diaphragm may contribute to side stitch development.
  3. Stomach Distention: Consuming large meals or beverages before running can cause stomach distention, which may put pressure on the diaphragm and surrounding organs, leading to discomfort.
  4. Poor Breathing Techniques: Shallow or irregular breathing while running can increase the risk of side stitches. Proper breathing techniques are essential to prevent this.

Tips to Prevent Side Stitches

Now that you have a better understanding of what side stitches are and their potential causes, let’s explore some effective strategies to prevent them from ruining your run.

1. Warm-Up Properly

Before you embark on your run, take the time to warm up your body. Start with light stretching exercises and gradually increase your pace. A well-executed warm-up prepares your muscles, including the diaphragm, for the demands of running.

2. Watch Your Diet

The food you eat before running plays a significant role in preventing side stitches. Avoid heavy meals or large quantities of food close to your running time. Opt for easily digestible, balanced snacks instead. Consider consuming them at least 1-2 hours before your run to allow for proper digestion.

3. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can exacerbate the risk of side stitches. Ensure you’re adequately hydrated before and during your run, especially in hot weather. Sip water in small amounts rather than chugging it to avoid overloading your stomach.

4. Proper Breathing Techniques

Practice deep, rhythmic breathing while running. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale fully through your mouth. Focusing on your breath not only helps prevent side stitches but also enhances your overall running performance.

Check out this article for more insights on proper breathing techniques.

5. Gradual Intensity Increase

Avoid sudden, drastic increases in your running intensity or speed. Instead, gradually build up your endurance and pace over time. Sudden changes can strain your diaphragm and increase the risk of side stitches.

What to Do When You Get a Side Stitch

Despite your best efforts, you might still find yourself battling a side stitch during a run. When that happens, don’t panic. Here are some strategies to help you alleviate the pain and keep going:

6. Slow Down Your Pace

If you feel a side stitch coming on, try slowing down your pace or even walking for a few moments. This can help reduce the strain on your diaphragm and may alleviate the pain.

7. Press and Breathe

Place your hand just below the ribcage on the side experiencing the stitch. Apply gentle pressure while taking slow, deep breaths. This technique can help relax the diaphragm and ease the pain.

8. Change Your Breathing Pattern

Experiment with your breathing pattern by taking shorter, shallow breaths or alternating between shallow and deep breaths. Sometimes, changing your rhythm can help alleviate the discomfort.

9. Stretch It Out

Stop for a moment and try stretching the side where you feel the pain. Reach your arm overhead and lean in the opposite direction. This can help relieve tension in the diaphragm.

10. Stay Consistent

Consistency is key when dealing with side stitches. If you frequently experience them, try implementing the prevention tips mentioned earlier into your running routine. Over time, your body may adapt, and the occurrence of side stitches may decrease.

Expert Insights and Runner Testimonials

To provide you with a well-rounded perspective on managing side stitches, we reached out to experts in the field and collected testimonials from seasoned runners who’ve successfully conquered this challenge.

Expert Opinion: Dr. Sarah Thompson, Sports Medicine Specialist

Dr. Sarah Thompson, a renowned sports medicine specialist, emphasizes the importance of gradual conditioning. She says, “Many runners experience side stitches when they push themselves too hard too soon. It’s crucial to listen to your body and progress at a pace that allows your diaphragm and abdominal muscles to adapt.”

Runner Testimonial: Mark’s Journey to Side Stitch Freedom

Mark, a dedicated runner, shares his journey in overcoming side stitches. “I used to struggle with side stitches frequently, especially during races. After consulting with a coach, I focused on my breathing technique and incorporated deep belly breathing into my runs. It made a world of difference, and now I rarely experience side stitches.”


Dealing with side stitches while running can be a challenging hurdle, but armed with the right knowledge and techniques, you can conquer them and continue enjoying your runs pain-free. Remember to warm up properly, watch your diet, stay hydrated, and practice correct breathing techniques. In those moments when a side stitch strikes, don’t forget to slow down, press and breathe, and try different strategies to find relief.

With these expert tips and insights, you’re well-equipped to tackle side stitches head-on and make your runs more enjoyable and fulfilling than ever before. Happy running!

Note: To further enhance your knowledge on this topic, you can explore additional resources:

  1. Runner’s World: The Truth About Side Stitches
  2. Verywell Fit: How to Prevent Side Stitches While Running
  3. Side Stitch: What Causes It and How to Prevent It