Health Check: why do we get a stitch and how can we stop it?

A stitch in medical terms is known as “exercise-related transient abdominal pain”. People often describe it as a sharp or stabbing pain, or sometimes cramping, aching or pulling in the side, just below the ribs. Some people can overcome the pain and continue to exercise, but most will need to slow down or stop for relief.

Why do we get a stitch?

We don’t know what causes a stitch. However, for a long time it was thought during high-intensity or lengthy exercise, there was a reduction in blood flow to the diaphragm, the large muscle involved in breathing, in favour of supplying blood and oxygen to the working limb muscles.

This idea is now not well regarded because both the leg muscles and the diaphragm work harder during running so it is unlikely blood would be shunted away from a muscle that is working hard.

A current explanation is that during running, the stitch is caused by the weight of organs such as the stomach, spleen and liver pulling on ligaments that connect them to the diaphragm. Read more>>

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