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  • Writer's pictureCheeziFit

A stitch in time saves nine but a stitch in the side hurts!

Good morning & welcome to Week 9 - the final week of the programme! Huge congratulations to everyone who has made it this far.

The chances are, over the past few weeks you may have suffered from a stitch. Side stitches, also known as exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP) are common during different types of exercise and runners can be particularly susceptible to them. The uncomfortable sharp pain in your side is very distracting and can even stop you in your tracks.

A 2015 study revealed that up to 70% runners had suffered from a stitch in the previous year.

In older runners, stitches usually occur on the right side twice as often as on the left and the opposite is true of younger runners.

The exact cause of stitches is not known however there are factors that can increase the risk e.g.

  • Age – Younger runners are more susceptible to stitches and the pain tends to be less severe in older runners

  • Eating & drinking before a run – Eating before a run can increase the risk and foods which are high in sugar or fat, together with some fruit juices and dairy products appear to be more associated with stitches. Try to drink only water before a run and avoid running within an hour of eating.

  • Low fitness level – If you are new to exercise, your abdominal muscles are still strengthening and developing which can cause a stitch

  • High-intensity exercise – Exercising too hard can cause a stitch particularly if you don’t warm up sufficiently.

  • Running in cold weather – Some people suffer from a stitch if the air is cold which may cause your diaphragm to spasm meaning you cannot breathe deeply. If it is cold, put on a snood or wrap a scarf around your neck and lightly over your mouth and nose to prevent you taking in cold air.

There are lots of tips to stop a side stitch and whilst there is no guarantee they will all work,

maybe one of them will work for you:

  • Gently push your fingers into the area where you feel pain

  • Change your pattern of breathing. Take a quick deep breath to force your diaphragm down, hold it for a couple of seconds, then forcibly exhale through pursed lips.

  • Try altering your breathing/striding pattern e.g. if you exhale when your right foot hits the ground, try exhaling with the left foot.

  • Stretch the area. If you have a stitch on your left side, raise your left arm up over your head and lean towards the right side in order to open up the muscles in the area of the stitch.

  • Slow down to a brisk walk and take plenty of deep breaths

Thankfully, stitches are not medical emergencies, despite the sudden sharp or stabbing pain felt, and if any of the tips above work for you, it is generally safe to resume exercising once the stitch has passed. Happy running!

You can download the official C25K app via the NHS website by clicking HERE where you will find all the information you need together with hints, tips and stretching advice.

It is never too late to start as the programme can be completed in your own time and fit in and around your lifestyle.

For further information, please contact us at

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