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what causes stitches?

does anyone know what causes the dreaded "stitch"? is it pushing your self too hard, too much fluid/food in your stomach putting strain on your abdominal muscles? weak abs? not breathing right? i always used to get them when running but now they seemed to have dissapeared


  • BritspinBritspin Posts: 1,655
    Jury is out on this one, but the food/fluid thing has currency.
  • huwdhuwd Posts: 228
    I was told dehydration could be a factor
  • TRIumphantTRIumphant Posts: 850
    Don't really go with the food / fluid thingy, as I drink and eat when cycling and never get it. Only when running. I think it's more breathing related. When it strikes, just change your breathing pattern.

    You might find that you always exhale on your right foot, and this causes imbalance within you, so when the stitch hits, just consciously think about how yo are breathing, and just change it in the short term, try exhaling as your left foot strikes instead, and it should go away. I'm no runner though.
  • TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    Right, well the first thing you have to differentiate is whether the pain is coming from the abdominal muscles, or more internal, which is harder than you would think!
    The external cramping type pain you can feel is often abdominal muscles, this can be due to many things, but in my experience it is down to a combination of dehydration, poor running posture (weak abdo muscles) and erratic breathing. The last one can be caused by pushing yourself too much as you exceed ventilatory threshold so have blood full of lactic acid, so you want to get rid of the CO2 to reduce the acidity of blood.

    So what causes a real stitch. The current theory, which has a fairly huge support, it that the pain is coming from the diaphragm due to the ligaments pulling down on it. The reason this happens during sport and the reason behind the eating before you train theory is that this increases the weight of the stomach and duodenum which pulls down on the ligaments, making the diaphragm more likely to cramp.
    But some people get it when they haven't eaten, this is typically on the right side, this is due to the liver pulling down on the diaphragm. This is typically caused by breathing pattern as mentioned, as when you step down on the right foot your liver descends, if this coincides with breathing OUT the diaphragm is going up, so stretches the ligaments out.
    Hope that helps
  • apana790apana790 Posts: 76
    thanks for the advice guys. I never though about on which leg i exhale
  • TesseractTesseract Posts: 280
    You're all wrong, it's needles
  • BlinkybazBlinkybaz Posts: 1,144
    As Britspin said thereis no clear cut answer as the medical dudes dont know.

    I find get a stich if my breathing isnt controld enough. Agood way to sor it out is in through th nose and then push out quickly throught the mouth. do that for a hundred mres and it will go (well it does for me) Make sure you keep your chesy high and dont bend as this amkes it wores.
  • julesojuleso Posts: 279
    I tend to breathe out for two strides now and in for four and that usually does the trick.
  • I began with stitch when i was 14 as a runner. It went on and on, most races i'd drop out 6/10, then came triathlon at 19 years old and i started training for the 3 events figuring i could get two thirds through a race at least. But i still got stitch on the run, it cost me winning races, finally when i got someone to believe me paying for Professional treatment, i was showed what was causing it.
    The Specialist laid me out flat across a bed, i relaxed and he would push his fingers into the abdomen wall an inch to the left of my belly button, there he would push hard inwards but no rigidity and no pain, he did the same to the right and there would be a tightness and pain, just like when i got the pain running. His treatment was accupuncture on my back as the muscle runs from the back up between the legs and into the abdomen. During the treatment i could hardly bend over and struggled wth a very sore back for weeks.
    Since then i have been pain free, that was when i was 24 in 1988.
  • TesseractTesseract Posts: 280
    See! Told y'all it was needles....no wait...Doh!

    can't beleive I got away with no red card for my awful joke the first time - what caused stiches? Needles? No? anybody? No? I'll get my coat....
  • Ron99Ron99 Posts: 237
    I've been reading a lot about human performance recently, and from what I've learned, the stitch is thought to be breathing related.

    The muscles used in breathing are very specialised, and when you're working hard, they can be responsible for as much as 20% of your energy expenditure.

    The breathing muscles comprise almost 100% extra slow muscle fibres, which have 2-3 times more capacity to use oxygen than any other - fine for these muscles because they never have to use anerobic systems; however, there are a very limited number of fibres in the diaphragm which have a limited anerobic capacity, and if you have to use them, the lactic acid build up results in cramp and fatigue, and you experience this as a stitch.

    Basically, if your respiration (as a system) can't provide enough oxygen to the diaphragm, then you get a stich.
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