Preventing Side Stitches

There’s nothing more uncomfortable when you are halfway through a run and things are going well, you’ve a good pace, but then you feel this intense pain in your side. This is a side stitch, also known as a side ache or side cramp.

There’s no hard and fast reason for why side stitches occur; however, they can happen when the diaphragm does not get enough oxygen. When that happens, you feel a sharp pain in your rib cage, usually the bottom right side.

So, let’s talk about what to do when you get one and how to avoid stitches altogether.


If you are the middle of the run, the best remedy is to stop or slow down. Breathe deeply through the stitch and stretch your core muscles. Slow your pace so that you exhale when the foot on the opposite side of the stitch strikes the ground. This eases the tension on your diaphragm muscles.


Breathe. Your best strategy to prevent a side stitch is to regulate your breathing. Pay attention to how you breath with each stride. As you run, try to get your breathing and stride in sync. Inhale for 3-4 strides. Exhale for 3-4 strides.

Warm up. I’ll be the first one to forgo a warm up session (and, admittedly, a stretch session) to save time. But, I have also been victim to some very intense side stitches. Skipping the warm up will only create irregular breathing patterns, exacerbating the stitch. A solid warm up is worth the extra time.

Eat. What you put in your body before a run is so important. This includes what you drink. Stick to water and complex carbohydrates, eaten 30-90 minutes pre-run.

Cross train. Strengthen your core by adding planks, yoga or pilates moves to your training schedule. Doing so will toughen up those diaphragm muscles, reduce fatigue and kiss those stitches good bye.

Try these strategies to prevent stitches ruining your run.

Eat nice and clean. Train mean and dirty.