Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Treat a Side Stitch

Side Stitch Treatments
Sometimes you may just need to stop, catch your breath and wait for the spasm to go away.
Sometimes you may just need to stop, catch your breath and wait for the spasm to go away.

As cardiovascular fitness improves, side stitches become less common. You tend to breathe deeper, which allows the diaphragm to move through a greater range of motion, instead of being held upward in a small tight pattern. But side stitches can still happen to the best of runners so it's wise to have a plan in place for when they occur. Here are some treatments to try:

  • Stop being shallow -- If you notice that you're breathing in and out in short breaths, focus on altering your inhalation and exhalation.
  • Hold it -- While continuing to run, breathe in deeply and hold your breath for a moment before exhaling rapidly.
  • Alter your cadence -- By speeding up or slowing down, you may be able to throw off the uneven rhythm between your footstrikes and breathing, which likely caused the problem.
  • Give it a rest -- If all else fails, a period of walking will give you a chance to catch your breath and enable your diaphragm to finish its twitchy dance.

Make mental notes of when you tend to get side stitches. Is it when you run after a meal? When you launch into an intense workout without a warm-up? When you're running downhill? All of these scenarios increase the chances of suffering from a side stitch. So avoid a big meal before running, give your body a chance to adjust to the pace of your training for the day, and recognize that -- especially with beginning runners -- your diaphragm may not be used to the jostling it gets while running downhill and breathing heavily.

Otherwise, recognize that side stitches come and go. They may be momentarily unpleasant, but you'll be back in full stride in no time.