Side stitch or a hernia

Running is a great form of exercise to stay in shape, boost endorphins, and build up endurance. However, it also puts a lot of pressure on your body. Unless you warm up correctly, you could end up with a pulled muscle, sprain, or a painful side stitch. In some cases, you may even develop a hernia.

If you experience a sharp pain in your side when running, it’s important to determine whether it is a simple stitch or a hernia. So, how can you tell the difference? In this blog, you’ll discover how to pinpoint the cause of your side pain.

Is it a side stitch or a hernia?

Both a side stitch and a hernia can lead to sharp pain around the abdomen. However, there are a few differences between the two conditions.

A side stitch, or an exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), develops as you exercise, typically causing a sharp pain in the side of the abdomen. It tends to occur in the upper part of the abdomen and has been found to occur more on the right side of the body.

Hernias also cause pain in the abdomen, though the pain is typically located in the lower area. They are also accompanied by a small lump underneath the skin. This is where the hernia has pushed through the weakened walls of the tissue.

You’ll typically know if it is a side stitch or a hernia by how frequently it occurs. Side stitches may develop occasionally. However, hernias are constantly there and will cause pain every time you run.

What causes a side stitch?

The exact cause of a side stitch is unknown. However, there are some theories as to why they may develop. A review of ETAP studies has revealed that friction may be the culprit behind the sharp, stabbing pain you experience with a side stitch.

When friction occurs between the outer and inner layers of the abdominal lining, it can cause the membranes to rub together. This is what causes the side stitch to develop.

The friction can be caused by poor posture, eating before running, and consuming a lot of sugary drinks. To avoid them, you’ll want to drink plenty of water while exercising – but avoid gulping a lot of liquid in one go, and instead try regularly sipping water. Also, avoid eating before running, and ensure you aren’t doing too much. Other advice includes increasing your core muscle strength, as well as improving your diaphragmatic breathing.

Other causes of side pain

If you develop pain while you are running frequently, it’s most likely down to something else other than a stitch. Other potential causes include a hernia, constipation, or GI issues. Side stitches will only occur during running. So, if the pain continues after activity and happens quite frequently, it’s more likely to be something else.

If you are concerned about ongoing side pain when running that is difficult to shift, it is important to get a proper medical diagnosis. Discovering the root cause of the problem will help you to know what you are dealing with. If you do have a hernia, then it is best to get it treated quickly. Book a consultation with Mr Woodward so that you can discuss the different treatment options that are right for you.

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