Side stitch causes and prevention.

A side stitch feels like someone is stabbing you right below your ribs. It really stings! Prevention is the key if you don't want it to happen again.

Why does it happen? Well, a side stitch is really muscle pain in your diaphragm. This muscle is located directly under your lungs. When you are running, and breathing hard, this muscle gets bounced around way more than normal. This stress on the muscle and the ligaments that hold it place causes some serious pain. Now that you know why it happens, you can prevent it.

Lets first list the steps briefly, and an the in-depth explanation follows.

1. Gradually add more distance or faster runs to your routine.
2. Strengthen your core.
3. If you get one during a run, do some deep belly breathing.

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I used to get them early in the running season. This is because I was out of shape. When I wasn't used to all that heavy breathing and bouncing up and down, it made my side sting! Prevention is simple. Strengthen that core.

1. You can work into running slowly. This means increase your distance a little bit at a time. Or you can increase the speed of your workouts, but not too fast too soon.

2. The other route is to make your abdominal area stronger. You can do a variety of sit-ups, crunches and leg lifts. Maybe look into doing some core workouts like "Core Rhythms." I love those commercials. I get up and do my Latin dance impression for a good 30 seconds. Then, I usually turn the channel to save myself from any further embarrassment.

3. The worst thing that can happen is getting a side stitch during competition. There are a lot of theories out there on how to stop them, but they all take a while to work. If you are going to continue running, try exhaling on the opposite foot of the pain. You can also try to take bigger "belly" breaths. Try taking in a breath for four steps, and exhaling for four. This is really hard if you are running fast though.

Our cross country team does a sit-up routine every day to help prevent a side stitch. Runners tend to get them in the first month of the season. After that, we don't hear about it anymore.

I hope that helps you. I guess you could always stop running to make the pain go away, but you're tougher than that. Right!

- Written by David Tiefenthaler

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