What Causes Side Stitches?

What Causes Side Stitches? EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses what causes side stitches and cramps during exercise and how to prevent them from happening.

4 Fast Facts On Side Stitches

Ever wonder what causes side stitches during exercise and how to prevent them?

  1. Commonly known as a side stitch or side cramp, this symptom can occur on the right or left side of the abdomen and can range from a dull cramp to a stabbing pain.
  2. Although the exact cause of side stitches has yet to be proven, there are two theories as to why they occur. Some experts think stitches are the result of a cramp in the diaphragm, perhaps due to ischemia (your diaphragm not getting enough blood).
  3. Another less supported theory is that the stitches are the result of irritation of the parietal peritoneum, the membrane that lines the abdominal wall and helps support your organs.
  4. To minimize the chance of side stitches or stop them endurance athletes can do a few things before and during exercise.
  • The last meal before endurance exercise should be consumed 2-3 hours beforehand and be low in fat and fiber.
  • Avoid drinks and juices high in sugar.
  • Warm up gradually.

If a side stitch does happen, increase your breathing by inhaling and exhaling deeply, slow down and exhale to release the stitch, press your hand on the stitch while exhaling, or stop and stretch it out.

Full Video Transcription:

Ever wondered what causes side stitches during exercise and how to prevent them? That is gonna be the topic of our 60-second Brain Power for today.

Now, a side stitch almost feels like a massive cramp in your side that can happen while you're exercising. They can be pretty debilitating.

Why Do Side Stitches Happen?

Now, while no one knows the exact cause of side stitches, there's a couple of different theories, the first being this. When you start exercising, there's an increase in abdominal pressure coupled with the expansion of the lungs from breathing harder, and this is thought to possibly kind of pinch off oxygen and blood flow to the diaphragm that will lead to the side stitch. The other theory is that the parietal peritoneum becomes irritated during exercise, and this can lead to a side stitch as well.

How To Prevent Side Stitches

So, now that we know what possibly causes a side stitch, how do you prevent them? Real quick. Eat your last meal about two to three hours beforehand. Avoid really sugary drinks beforehand. And then when you start exercising, warm up gradually. And if a side stitch does happen, there's a few different things you can do. You can exhale really hard, you can put pressure on the spot of the side stitch, or you can stretch it out.