Runners – help! How do I prevent a stitch?


So, I have this problem.

It doesn’t happen when I swim, or when I cycle – only when I run.

I’ll be doing fine, running along at an easy pace. My breath will be through my nose, both in and out. I’ll be breathing around 3-4 step pace.

And then. Around the second km… I get a stitch. Almost without fail.

And it’s driving me insane!

It’s really impacting my ability to run constantly for a decent distance (think 5k) and also my ability to speed up. I’ve been running regularly for about a year now, and it’s a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away.

In short – it’s the one thing holding me back from improving my running.

So, I’m putting out a plea – do you know how to prevent a stitch?

I have tried the following, with varied levels of success:

  • Diet – not eating for a good few hours before running, as well as WHAT I eat. I seem to get less stitches when I’m eating a strictly paleo diet.
  • Breathing – making sure to fully exhale, and exhaling when landing on my left foot, as I always get my stitch on my right side/shoulder.
  • Posture – tightening my lower abdomen, and also my middle/upper abdomen as I run. This gets pretty exhausting over longdistances.

However, the only thing that actually gets rid of it once a full-blown stitch has set in is to slow to a walk or stop, press on the spot, and/or bend over for a moment.

I read this interesting article from the AIS, in which they explain the current thinking on the causes of a stitch.

Current theory seems to suggest that it’s caused by organs pulling on ligaments, or an irritation of the parietal peritoneum – two layers of membrane that have a fluid layer between them in your abdomen.

I’ve often suspected that my bra has something to do with it. Ladies, can you confirm/deny this for me? I always seem to get the worst pain just under my breast – where my bra strap goes around my torso – and the shoulder pain is where the shoulder strap runs, too. Could the extra pressure from the garment be exacerbating the problem, I wonder?

Long story short – I’d love to hear what’s worked for you if you’ve managed to overcome this problem. Is it something that gets better the fitter you get?

There’s gotta be a solution – I don’t imagine all runners/athletes just push through the pain… or maybe they do?

{image from SeriousRunning}

  4 comments for “Runners – help! How do I prevent a stitch?

  1. May 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Before you run, take an Aleve with water. I had this problem when I had to take a PT(Physical Test) in the Army. It worked. I hope it works for you.

    • Jess
      May 19, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Thank you so much, Lenore!! I will give that a go 🙂

  2. Av
    October 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Not sure if you still have this problem Jess, but having a seated job can make this worse. Try stretching your abdominals and diaphragm like this lady is doing (I tried writing out the description but it was too hard!) This helped me when I started running. I used to be a web designer so I had this problem all the time. Stretching helped, and so did holding a better posture when I worked. But mostly the stretching 🙂

    • Jess
      October 28, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Thanks Av! I love that stretch, but I’m definitely not doing it enough. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

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