Stitches – What Causes Them and How You Can Avoid Them!

Just about everyone who has exercised has experienced either a cramp or a stitch at some point.

Whether you are a recreational exerciser through to a serious athlete, cramps and stitches can still be frustrating for all.


What is a stitch?

Known as Exercise-related Transient Abdominal Pain: localised pain usually felt on the side, just below the ribs, sometimes accompanied by a stabbing sensation in the shoulder joint.


What causes a stitch?

Scientists are still unsure as to the exact cause of a stitch.


- Theory #1: Caused by a reduction in bloody supply to the diaphragm due to blood being redirected to the exercising muscles. This has now lost favour as both the diaphragm and the limb muscles need to work harder during exercise, so it is unlikely that inadequate blood flow is directed to the diaphragm.


- Theory #2: Caused by irritation of the parietal peritoneum (one of the two layers of membrane that line the inside wall of the abdominal cavity). It is thought that the stitch occurs when there is friction between the abdominal contents and the parietal peritoneum, caused by a full stomach or a reduction in the lubricating fluid. It is also attached to the phrenic nerve, which refers pain to the shoulder tip region, explaining the shoulder pain described by some athletes.


How can I avoid a stitch?

- Eating too closely to exercise seems to increase the chances of experiencing a stitch – allow 2-4hrs before exercising after a large meal.

- High-fat and fibre foods are also likely to cause problems.

- Decrease the amounts of highly concentrated fluids such as soft drink, cordial or fruit juice immediately before or during exercise as they empty the stomach slower than water or sports drinks.

- Consume small amounts of fluid regularly as it is better tolerated than large amounts.


How should a stitch be treated?

- Bend forward while pushing on the affected area and breathing deeply.

- Lie down while elevating your hips.


If you would like to know more about reducing cramps and stitches during exercise then contact

us today at Infinite Health Chatswood - Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology & Massage

Therapy on 02 9412 2222 or feel free to click here for the full article.


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