Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Want to know what causes the dreaded side stich?

I am sure almost ever single one of us has experienced the discomfort of a side stitch during physical activity (usually running), at one time or another.

While running, a sudden pain develops in the right upper part of the belly, just underneath the ribs in the front. With each step, the pain worsens

The reason for this occurrence has been elusive for sure, and up until now there has been no conclusive explanation for the phenomena.

A few of the more traditional explanations doctors put proposed included:
  • Gas in the colon
  • A liver swollen with excessive blood
  • A cramp of the abdominal muscle
  • Lack of O2 to the diaphragm
  • Trapped gases in the lungs
Enter Dr Tim Noakes, working out of the Sport Science Institute in Cape Town, South Africa.

He proposed that the side stitch or cramp was a result of a stretching of the ligament that extends down from the diaphragm and attaches to the liver, keeping it place.

During running, the liver drops down at the exact same time that our diaphragm elevates, causing a stretching of the ligament and causing the side pain.

Here is what happens: as we run, we select a respiration cadence that fits in with our stride rate - generally we have a fixed pattern of breathing when we run. We have a two to one breathing ratio, breathing once for each two strides.

In most circumstance, exhalation occurs with right foot ground strike. With this exhalation, the diaphragm moves up and the force of the foot strike with the ground causes the liver to move down.

The result is a stretching of the ligaments attaching to your liver from your diaphragm and voula - PAIN!

The solution is simple (Thank you Dr. Mirkin for the guidelines):
He recommends:, "When you get a stitch, stop running and press your hand deep into your liver to raise it up against your diaphragm. At the same time, purse your lips and blow out against the tightly held lips as hard as you can."

The explanation is that pushing the liver up stops stretching the ligament and breathing out hard empties your lungs, relieving the pain.

Now get back to your run!

1 comment:

William Ross Bs BME said...

I have found that doing ten or twenty push-ups also helps this stitch.