New Zealand's Natural Therapies Website
e.g. yoga, naturopath
e.g. Kelston, Auckland

Visit us on Facebook

Hitwise Award Winner


eg.Marlborough or 629 (not both)

What is a stitch when exercising?


What causes a ‘stitch’ in your side when exercising? Well, scientists still aren’t sure. But there are many theories and possible causes – as well as several things you can try to alleviate a cramp or stitch when it strikes.

What is a stitch?

A stitch is a sharp cramp that hits on the sides of the abdomen, right below the ribs. You’ve probably felt it on a long run or similar form of movement.

Does poor digestion cause a stitch?

One leading theory is that if we exercise after eating, poor digestion makes the stomach pull on the ligaments that connect it to the diaphragm. This happens when the body hasn’t had time to digest food and fluids properly.

Does blood flow cause a stitch?

Another idea is that the blood that is pumped to our limbs weakens the diaphragm. That’s because blood moves from the diaphragm and out to our extremities. With less blood supplied, the diaphragm cramps.

Does spinal irritation cause a stitch?

A lesser known theory is that irritation of the spinal column can cause a stitch. In a 2004 study, researchers found that applying pressure to the vertebrae towards the top of the spine helps alleviate the pain from a stitch.

How can I stop a stitch?

You could try to prevent a stitch by not eating right before exercising, and avoiding sugary drinks. To treat a stitch, apply pressure with your fingers. Another tip is to learn forward and touch your toes.
If you often experience a stitch, be sure to warm up slowly before running at your usual speed. You can also stretch before each workout, focusing on the abdomen and core.
Just as scientists don’t know why we get a stitch, they don’t know why or how these methods work to relieve it!

  Printer Friendly Version

Related Modalities

  Men's Health
  Personal Training
  Women's Health