One study found that although many people believed that age and fitness level to be the cause, neither seemed to be the case. Instead, it was found that eating and/or drinking before exercise was a factor in getting a side stitch; food and drinks that were high in sugar or salt were more likely to cause problems.
So if a side stitch can happen to anyone, what do you do if it occurs during training or competition?
- Start by breathing deeply into your abdomen (belly breathing).
- Try pursing your lips when you breathe out to synchronize your breathing.
- If you are on the move (e.g. running, or roller blading) you can try to get your breathing to fall in line with your foot movement.
- Stretching may help to diminish the pain of a side stitch, raise one arm up in the air and lean to the opposite side of where your pain is.
- If the pain really won't go away, slow down for a bit (five minutes) and continue when you feel well enough to start again.
References from the SIRC Collection:
1. Clark N. Undesired Sideliners: Side Stitches and Runner's Trots. Running & Fitnews. July 2010;28(4):21-23.
2. Erith M. Stitch - exercise related transient abdominal pain. Coach. November 2003;(19):42-45.
3. Morton D, Aragón-Vargas L, Callister R. Effect of Ingested Fluid Composition on Exercise-related Transient Abdominal Pain. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. April 2004;14(2):197-208.
4. Morton D, Callister R. Influence of posture and body type on the experience of exercise-related transient abdominal pain. Journal Of Science & Medicine In Sport. September 2010;13(5):485-488.
5. Muir B. Exercise related transient abdominal pain: a case report and review of the literature. Journal Of The Canadian Chiropractic Association. December 2009;53(4):251-260.
6. Welch D. `Oh, the pain!'. Shape. October 1995;15(2):23.