The worst part about running usually isn't the actual running part — it's the pain that can pop up out of nowhere as you're jogging along. You know what we're talking about: That incredibly sharp jab in your side that basically makes it impossible to do anything but give up and shuffle back home.
Stitches — aka exercise-related transient abdominal pains — not only occur while running, but also swimming, biking, and many other physical activities. Even though it's incredibly common, researchers still aren't 100 percent sure where that stabbing feeling comes from, but they do have some theories.
Hank Green, co-host of the SciShow on YouTube, made a video about the phenomenon and what could be causing it:
1. Your diaphragm could be strained.
The diaphragm is the main muscle that helps you breathe by contracting and expanding as you inhale and exhale. When you are running and your feet hit the ground at the same time as you exhale — i.e. when your diaphragm is at its tightest — this could strain the diaphragm and cause it to spasm.
2. Your organs are getting bounced around.
It sounds kind of weird, but the up-and-down motion of running might strain the ligaments as they're keeping your organs from sliding around inside you, causing pain.
3. The layers of your peritoneum are bumping together.
The peritoneum is a membrane made up of two layers that cover and support most of the organs in your abdomen. Normally there's fluid between the layers of the peritoneum, but when you're dehydrated or have just eaten a big meal, there isn't as much. This could cause the layers to bump and rub together, which in turn causes pain.
Green also has tips to ease and prevent getting side stitches while running:
- Stop whatever you're doing and the pain will eventually subside.
- Don't exercise right after eating a big meal.
- Work to strengthen your core to reduce movement in your abdomen while exercising.
Stitches are no fun, but don't let them stop you from reaching your goals this year.
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