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From time to time during aerobic workouts such as running or heavy cycling, I get side stitches that force me to slow down my effort.

What causes side stitches?

I know that reducing your effort reduces the stitch, but is there something that you can do to prevent them from occuring in the first place?

And lastly I only ever seem to get them on one side (my right) and never on the other. Is that typical of a stitch?

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Interesting question. I only get 'em on the right also. –  Samuel Andrew Mar 30 '11 at 2:01
    
What are stitches? Are they like cramps from heavy exhaustion? –  Salsero69 Mar 30 '11 at 3:45
    
It's pain on the side, usually the right, in the lower part of the rib cage. It's very different from cramps. –  Alex Florescu Mar 30 '11 at 21:21
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Not clear why they happen, though there are several theories.

For running, exhaling on the left foot has helped me a lot.

I would also get them sometimes while practicing kicks. This was trickier to work with, but a powerful exhale while kicking seemed to also help here (breathing exercises were indirectly useful as well).

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How interesting, who would think that exhaling with your left foot would help. I'll have to try it. –  Walter Mar 30 '11 at 12:30
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Stitches commonly occur if this is the first time you are running in a while. They also occur if your stomach is somewhat full.

If you are a new runner or have not run in a while, just run at a slower pace where the pain does not occur. Also, run only after a couple of hours or more after having food or drink.

More info on stitches can be found at this Cool Running article.

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I got stitches all the time as a kid, and ran around constantly. I don't think it can be limited to "the first time you are running in a while." –  Matthew Read Mar 30 '11 at 14:39
    
Matthew: There are exceptions for everything :-) –  Ashwin Mar 31 '11 at 3:19
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Stitches can happen for a lot of reasons: breathing issues, eating too recently, dehydration.

To get rid of them, focus on exhaling as you step with the foot on the opposite side of the stitch. I've gotten stitches hundreds of times, and this has never failed to fix them.

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Eating and going too fast are usually the cause –  Chris S Apr 2 '11 at 16:56
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Most people would chalk this up to a lack of conditioning, but focusing on your breathing can help.

Try breathing in your nose, and out your mouth. Also, time your breathing as some people described as exhaling on a certain foot. I always timed my breathing by inhaling for an even number of strides and exhaling for one. That means you'll exhale on the opposite foot each time.

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