What is a Stitch?
Scientific Term: In Scientific Literature a stitch is recognised as, an Exercise-related transient abdominal pain.
Regular Term: In simple words it can be described as, a sharp and sudden pain in the shoulder.
What causes a Stitch to occur?
Unfortunately scientist are yet to know the exact reason of which stitches occur so there is no definite answer at this point in time, however they had narrowed it down to the 3 main plausible theories.
- The first theory is: “ A reduction in blood supply to the diaphragm during exercise.” However this theory has recently lost favour as the diaphragm is so integral to breathing that it is unlikely an inadequate blood flow is sent their.
- The second theory is: “Jolting during exercise, causes organs to pull on the ligaments that connect the gut to the diaphragm which in turn causes stress on the diaphragm.” However this theory doesn’t explain why people still get stitches in activities that don’t involve Jolting, such as swimming for example.
- The third and most plausible theory is: “ An irritation of the lining of the abdominal cavity which may be caused by a full stomach or a reduction in the lubricating fluid.” As the lining is attached to a nerve in the shoulder region, which can explain the shoulder pain. (This is why it is advised to not consume meals and concentrated fluids such as juice within 2-4 hours before exercise.
How does a stitch affect the athlete during training?
A person with a stitch is usually forced to slow down or cease exercise; the stitch will remain for a few minutes.
What do you do when you get a stitch?
There are 2 main options you have for releasing/getting rid of the stitch.
- Bending forward and breathing deeply can alleviate the stitch.
- Lie down on the ground with your hips elevated and take slow, deep breaths until pain has subsided.
What if the stitch remains for more than a few minutes?
A stitch is rarely a sign of a more serious problem however, any pain that is persistent and does not ease when exercise ceases should be investigated by a doctor.