Reader to Reader: Stitch trouble

New Reader to Reader question

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11/03/2007 at 18:44
Hi peeps,

Another Reader to Reader question by email, this time from Little T:

"I've just returned to running after four months off with an injury. Unfortunately, I'm getting really bad stitch each time I run - always in the same place, just under my ribcage on the right. I've tried everything to stop it - not eating for 2-3 hours before a run, eating a banana half an hour before, breathing out when my left foot strikes the floor, ditto with my right, relaxing my breathing, slowing down... nothing seems to help. I'm getting to the end of my tether!" (Little T)

Sounds pretty horrible. Any suggestions, other than "stop running and go and lie down instead"?

11/03/2007 at 20:03
Get one at 12 mins into a run without fail when I am starting back into running after cold/injury especially If I drink too much fluid before I go out. I Cut down on liquid for an hour before just having sips of water every 10 mins and taking water with me. It helped a bit. Someone told me to put my arm up above my head on the opposite side to stitch. Helps a little but usually have to slow down until it stops. Someone also told me to try touch my toes but that made it worse. I don't think there is a cure, just slow down and try jog through it. Don't give up, its a bit off puting, but if you are like me when you build yor fitness levels back up is might stop.
11/03/2007 at 20:48
If you have a gut, suck it in as tightly as you can while continuing to run.

If you have no gut, pretend that you do have a gut, and suck it in tightly while continuing to run with a smug expression on your face.
12/03/2007 at 08:35
Thanks for those suggestions...Batmouse, I'll try cutting down on fluids before i run this lunchtime(I do drink an awful lot of water).

Cloudburst - I'm like a big old beanpole I'm afraid - not a sniff of a gut...interested to hear more about your theory though. Surely the worst thing you can do if you have a stitch is tense your abs?
12/03/2007 at 08:48
I've always found that jabbing my hand into my diaphragm, where the pain is, stops it. It's all about stopping the muscle from cramping. Long, deep breaths, from the diaphragm, also help. Hope something works!
12/03/2007 at 09:46
thanks Bunnyphobia - will try that too. it seems to get worse when i breathe deeply and better when i take shallow breaths. Maybe i'm just deeply weird. it's frustrating because it's the only thing slowing me down at the moment!
12/03/2007 at 12:32
Have been running for four months. Had exactly the same problem as you. Every time I went out I got a stitch no matter what I tried, ie not eating/drinking for a couple of hours beforehand. Then two weeks ago I bought an underwired sports bra from M&S - quite expensive but it has done the trick for me and haven't had a stitch since. Hope it helps
12/03/2007 at 15:59
A stitch is the diaphragm cramping up, so your looking to stretch it out again via breathing and if you can use your hands to stretch it, go for it! other iversion techniques include gripping the opposite hand to the stitch to take your mind of it.
When i used to and still do get a stitch its usually down to lack of salt so it may be worth trying to put a little salt into a drink to mix it up!

Hope this helps!
12/03/2007 at 16:09
As far as I was always told as a young 'un, stitches are all to do with lactic acid build-up and as such are a product of not getting enough oxygen. With this in mind the best strategy is NOT to put your handss on your knees, stay upright, slow down a bit and focus on breathing more to get more oxygen in. I think cramping of the diaphragm is hiccups, which is different. For a stitch, you just have to breathe. Unless I've been mis-informed, but that approach always works for me in any event.
12/03/2007 at 16:12
Since lots of people have been told lots of different things about what causes stitches, do we have any physiologists of any variety out there who can help clear it all up?
12/03/2007 at 16:21
nowhere near a physiologist but i always thought stitch was cramp of the pancreas, seem to remember being told that at school
12/03/2007 at 17:20
The common form of stitch encountered by runners occurs on the right side of the body and is due to a spasm of the diaphragm. The reason it is the right hand side is because of the weight of the organs that are attached here. What happens is that you get into a rhythmn of breathing out as the right foot hits the ground which increases the load on the diaphragm and causing the spasm. If you encounter the problem change to breathing out as the left foot hits the ground. To prevent the problem occuring in the first place develop a breathing pattern that alternates between left and right.
12/03/2007 at 19:20
Little T - the suggestion was one I read somewhere; I don't know the source.

I think prevention is the key, here. I have only ever had a stitch when running too soon after a substantial quantity of food or drink.

I have read that the weight of the food / drink pulls down your stomach, causing strains internally, further emphasised by the pounding associated with running.
12/03/2007 at 20:01
My stitches are usually a result of trapped wind in the stomach, nothing to do with food, and can happen either on an empty stomach, an hour or two after a snack or when fuelling on a long run. I slow down a little, press in the painful area constantly and wriggle it around and it usually loosens it. A couple of good, sometimes forced hearty burps and then it subsides.
13/03/2007 at 11:09
wow - thanks for all your suggestions. emjaybee - i've tried controlling my breathing and breathing out when my left foot strikes the ground, but to no avail.

Sal - i have a good Sportjock bra already - no point in me wearing anything underwired because i have grapes rather than melons ;o) - but thanks ever so much anyhow!

Phillip - i'd never considered that before. i don't actually eat salt on anything (though if i'm going on a long run, i do take isotonic drinks with me), so i shall try your suggestion today.

and if all else fails, i'll be the one running round Hyde Pk this lunchtime belching for Britain :)
13/03/2007 at 12:37
When i've spent time with football clubs, before i took to running, i was always made by the physios and nutritionists to have some form of muesli type meal, half an hour after player to utilise the optimum replenishment oppurtunity and sprinkle salt onto it salt is bad for people who don't exercise because they never deplete it.
Hope it works out for you!;)
13/03/2007 at 13:21
Hi Little T. I had this problem. I think it was to do with my core stability as it happened no matter what! Keeping the stomach muscles taut helps keep all your innards from being tugged around! Also, I take a short walk, link my hands behind my head and do deep breathing - that seems to help.
13/03/2007 at 14:08
well - just got back from my run after having tried the 'salt' method...the stitch was still there but not as bad as it has been, so cheers for that Phillip!

when it did happen, i tried to jab my hand into the painful area like Little Lizard suggested, and my GOD - not only did it hurt, but this huge scary belch erupted and disturbed a flock of pigeons (this can ONLY be a good thing)!!! it's still recurring, but it wasn't as bad today as it has been over the past few weeks.

i've certainly got a lot of different methods to try - thank you all so much.
13/03/2007 at 15:06
I get stitch if I eat so much as a mouthful of food for three hours before running. Liek you always on the rigth side under the ribcage. If I try to run through it (as advised) it has made me more prone to stitch on successive runs. I find the only way to prevent stitch is to not eat for at least 3 hours before running. If I eat 2 and half hours before I can almost lay money on getting stitch. Makes planning runs all that more important/difficult but worth it!
14/03/2007 at 09:30
I logged on to RW this morning to post a question about this very same thing!

No-one seems to know the answer. Does anyone know what it is in the first place?

Holding my stomach muscles taut definitely helps to control the pain but doesn't remove it. Can Mike Gratton help?
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