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Q: Whenever I run, my side gets this pain and tightening feeling. My doctor said it was a runner's stitch.
How do I get rid of it so I can do more cardio? — Chris, Charleston, SC
A: For starters, hydrate properly before you run, and make sure you're getting the nutrients endurance athletes need. Hydrating before exercise and during prolonged bouts of activity will decrease your risk for muscle cramps, and you'll also recover better from your training.
Some researchers believe that a runner's stitch, known as "exercise related transient abdominal pain," or ETAP, is due to an over-stretching of the ligaments that extend from the diaphragm to the internal organs, particularly on the right side, that become fatigued on long runs. The motion of inhaling and exhaling while running can cause stress on the ligaments resulting in pain on the side. Deep and even breaths may be able to relieve the stress on your ligaments better than shallow breathing.
If you find yourself in pain out on the road, these strategies can help:
Massage the area in pain.
Stretch: Lift one arm straight up in the air and lean to the opposite side. Hold for 2 seconds. Relax and repeat 3 to 5 times.
Slow down your pace until the pain subsides.
Abbott Nutrition strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program and perform exercises under the supervision of a certified fitness trainer or conditioning coach. The effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition should be determined by your health care professional. The suggestions here are in no way intended to substitute for medical advice.