An exercise-related stitch is common amongst runners or during other sports participation where a sharp, stabbing and cramping pain is experienced in the lateral aspect of the lower part of the rib-cage or within other areas of the abdominal cavities. Most scientists suggest that the symptoms originate from the diaphragm muscle which is one of the main breathing muscles involved in deep breathing.
There are many theories behind the actual cause of a stitch and subsequent preventative factors. However, research suggests that there is no definite answer as yet. The below points outline only a few theories and suggestions:
- Reduced blood supply to the diaphragm muscle during exercise; during exercise, blood may be re-distributed to the working peripheral muscles of the body as opposed to the diaphragm
- Slow digestive fluids consumed prior to exercise may irritate the working action of the diaphragm muscle; some people believe that sugary drinks may increase the risk of a stitch
- Food consumed too soon before exercise
- Erratic movements during exercise of the internal organs and ligaments associated with the diaphragm
- Trapped air beneath the diaphragm muscle
- Inadequate warm-up of the main breathing muscles used during exercise
- Cold environments
- Insufficient chemicals within the body – e.g. sodium, potassium, calcium or magnesium
- Friction between the abdominal contents and the inner abdominal wall
As noted, there are many theories behind an exercise-induced stitch and research is on-going and still analysing the concept. For those who regularly experience a stitch during exercise, it would be useful to self-educate themselves to help avoid the onset to avoid the above aggravating suggestive causative factors.
Please feel free to contact the Manchester G4 Clinic to speak to a member of the health & fitness team for any questions that you may have.