Wondering what a side stitch is? It’s not a c-section! It’s that sharp pain or spasm that you get below your ribs during exercise. The ligaments, tendons, muscles and the connective tissue around the diaphragm get affected by this muscle spasm. It is almost as if the diaphragm muscle gets tired due to constant expansion and contraction that occurs due to breathing. It usually occurs on the right side. It can be very intense and the person suffering from these spasms often finds it very uncomfortable. But, this is a fairly normal phenomenon. Most people who exercise, jog or walk have suffered from a side stitch at some point in their lives. There are some who experience side stitches more often than others.
The exact cause of a side stitch is not really known. Some doctors believe that it is a spasm in the diaphragm and it could be a result of the pulling of the diaphragm. When we exercise or jog, some of our internal organs bounce and the diaphragm get pulled as well. A side stitch has also been associated with consuming wheat and/or diary based products. People often develop an intolerance to either of these two later in life and can suffer from side stitches due to the same.
Some people are of the opinion that if you exercise immediately after eating food, you are more likely to suffer from a side stitch. Interestingly, you can also get a side stitch when you’ve had too much to eat. Your stomach feels bloated and suddenly you also experience a shooting pain or spasm in your diaphragm. This spasm is most likely to go away in a few minutes on its own and antacids can help to get rid of gas and bloating.
Here are a few home remedies to avoid side stitch:
1. Eat small meals – Always eat small meals. Do not stuff yourself overly. You can definitely avoid a side stitch if you eat small meals. Avoid being on a full stomach. When you do this, you might feel like eating something in between meals, but that’s perfectly alright. Just make sure that you eat healthy snacks such as fruits, boiled eggs or dry fruits. The same rule applies to exercise and snacks. Always keep a gap of some time. Do not exercise for at least an hour before eating.
2. Do not exercise immediately after eating – You should have a gap of at least 3 hours between your meals and exercise. I you exercise too soon after eating food, you are more prone to get a side stitch and you may also end up puking since the food might not be digested by then.
3. Take deep breaths – Try deep breathing. Take slow and deep breaths and make your chest expand and contract. Breathe deep in to the lungs and help your ligaments get some rest. Many joggers have reported that they experience more side stitches while going downhill. This is because when you go downhill, the force on the body gets increased with each foot. If you identify a similar pattern with your side stitches, it is better not to walk downhill on long stretches.
4. Relax – Many a times, people can actually start to feel the pain before the stitch comes. If this happens, just decrease your pace and relax. Walk very slowly. This might avoid the stitch all together or decrease its intensity. Once the spasm is over, slowly increase your pace and continue to jog.
5. Massage the affected area – Massaging the affected area is a great way to get rid of the side stitch. Just press on the affected and hold it for about half a minute. Massaging works best if you’re also able to bend yourself forward along with it. Keep massaging till the spasm is over. Massaging and rubbing the affected area apparently helps to increase the blood flow to the diaphragm which eases the spasm.
6. Stretch yourselves – Stretching your diaphragm can be of immense help. Raise one hand above your head and bend your body to the opposite side. Hold for half a minute and then switch sides. Do this for about five minutes. Be very careful while you stretch. Do it very slowly and gently. Once you feel better and the stitch has subsided, start walking slowly and gradually increase your pace. Before you begin exercise, stretch yourself and ease your body. A nice warm up before exercise is a must.
7. Drink more water – We always hear that one should drink plenty of water. Sufficient water intake is essential for a healthy body. When you exercise, your body loses a lot of water in the form of sweat. Drink lots of water and other fluids so that your body is hydrated and your diaphragm receives a continuous supply of blood. Fluids help in preventing side stitches to a great extent.
8. Stop and sit – Whenever you feel a spasm, just stop and sit down. Take deep breaths and then fill air in your mouth. Exhale as if you’re blowing out candles. Take deep breaths and exhale in the same manner till the spasm is over. This is a very effective technique to avoid and decrease the occurrence of side stitches.
9. Avoid wheat and/or dairy products – If you are or have experienced lactose intolerance or wheat intolerance, just try and avoid eating wheat-based foods and dairy products. Most likely, the occurrence of side stitches will be alleviated. You can always get substitutes for wheat such as barley and oats. Drink soy milk in place of cow milk. Observe whether you feel the stitch even after excluding wheat and milk from your diet. If the problem persists, visit a medical practitioner.
Always remember that it is completely normal to suffer from a side stitch and one should never stop exercising due to this. In fact, research has shown that one can decrease the occurrence of side stitches by keeping fit. So just follow our advice and work towards a fit body!