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Should You Keep Running with a Stitch?

As a runner, it is not uncommon to experience a stitch during a run. On my last run I experienced a stitch, and I kept running, was that the right decision. Let's find out.

It is generally safe to keep running with a stitch as long as you slow down and focus on your breathing. If the pain is severe or does not go away with rest and stretching, it is best to call it a day and try again tomorrow. Now let’s take a look on how to fix the stitch.

Let’s explore the answer to that question and provide tips for preventing and treating side stitches.

What is a Stitch?

A side stitch is a sharp, stabbing pain that occurs below the rib cage on one side of the body. It is a common complaint among runners and can be quite painful. 1 in 5 runners are expected to get a stitch in one running race. The pain usually does go away when you slow down or stop running. Unfortunately, it can be so intense that it can force you to stop running altogether.

Causes of Side Stitches

The exact cause of side stitches is not known, but there are several theories. Some experts believe that side stitches are caused by dehydration or lack of proper breathing during exercise. Others believe that side stitches are caused by eating too close to a workout.

I believe it is a combination of not warming up properly and dehydration. Regardless of the cause, it can be helpful to understand how to prevent and treat side stitches.

Should You Keep Running with a Stitch?

If you experience a side stitch while running, it is generally safe to keep going. When I experienced a stitch, I slowed down to a walk and focused on my breathing. It is important to slow down and taking slow deep breaths to help ease the pain. You can also try stretching the affected side by reaching your arm overhead and leaning in the opposite direction. This can help stretch the muscles and relieve the pain. You can also try sipping on water to ensure you are hydrated properly.

If the pain is severe or does not go away with slow, deep breathing and stretching, it is best to stop running and rest. Continuing to run with a severe pain can make it worse and could lead to injury. Take a few minutes to rest and stretch before resuming your workout. If the pain persists, it's best to call it a day and try again tomorrow.

Tips for Preventing Side Stitches

Preventing side stitches can be the key to a successful workout. Here are some tips to help you prevent side stitches:

  • Hydrate: Make sure you are properly hydrated before and during your workout.

  • Don't Eat Too Close to Your Workout: Try to eat at least 2-3 hours before your workout.

  • Warm-Up: Make sure to warm up for 5-10 minutes before your workout.

  • Proper Breathing: Focus on taking slow, deep breaths while running.

  • Build Up Your Endurance: Gradually increase your mileage and intensity to build endurance.

How to Treat a Side Stitch

If you do experience a stitch during your workout, here are some tips to help treat it:

  • Slow Down: Reduce your pace or walk.

  • Focus on Breathing: Take slow, deep breaths and focus on breathing from your diaphragm.

  • Stretch: Stretch the affected side.

  • Massage: Massage the affected area gently.

  • Change Your Breathing Pattern: Exhale when the foot on the side of the stitch strikes the ground.

When to See a Doctor for Side Stitches

While stitches are generally harmless, there are instances where you should see a doctor. If you experience severe pain, difficulty breathing, or pain that moves to other areas of the body. These symptoms could be a sign of a more serious condition and require medical attention.


Side stitches can be a painful and frustrating part of running, but they don't have to derail your workout. By following the tips outlined, you can prevent and treat side stitches and enjoy a successful and pain-free workout.

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