What is a side ache from running ?

A side ache is most commonly known as a stitch

Side stitches are a common pain in the world of fitness, most of us have been blessed in our lifetime with the wonderful experience of a side stitch. For those of you have never experienced a side ache the process of a stitch happens often whilst running, normally a runner develops pain in the right upper part of the belly, just underneath the ribs.  Each step the pain worsens and increases.  It took years for medical's to finally understand and learn what causes a side stitch. Doctors proposed all sorts of explanations for side stitch and most were nonsense.

Here's what a stitch isn't ;

A stitch is not caused by gas in the colon because it is not relived by passing gas

It is not caused by a liver swollen with blood during running,because the liver has a very distensible capsule and does not enlarge much during exercise.

It is not caused by cramps in the belly muscles because the belly muscles are not held rigidly when you have a side stitch, and it does not hurt when you push on the belly muscles.

Lack of oxygen to the diaphragm doesn’t cause them because blood flow to the diaphragm is not shut off by running.


The famous side stitch,ache or cramp comes from our diaphragm muscle. Diaphragm is large muscle below our lungs which assist us to breathe. This pain is caused by the internal organs pulling down on our diaphragm.The areas are affected predominately, below the rib cage, around the liver and stomach area.  

Ways to prevent side stitches

  1. Drink water to prevent muscle cramps
  2. Strengthen core muscles
  3. Improve overall fitness
  4. Stretch properly before exercise
  5. Exercise on empty stomach (don’t eat 3 hours before)
  6. Run on soft surfaces

Things that can help cure side stitches

1.Try belly breathing; You can do this by pushing out the stomach and  inhaling at the same time, when exhaling relax the stomach muscles and draw in towards the body.

2.Stop exercising and place pressure with figures on the right side of your abdomen, exhale slowly whilst applying pressure.

3.Reduce frequency of breathing.(e.g. Inhale and exhale every 2 or 4 steps)

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