You are attempting to amp up your running program when you feel it: a sharp pain on your right side, just under your ribs. You may wonder if this pain is a sign of something serious or just a side effect of pushing yourself. If you frequently experience running-related pain, this could be a cause for concern.
An estimated 70 percent of frequent runners experience a “stitch” in their sides at some point while running, according to The Stretching Handbook. Also known as transient abdominal pain, a stitch is pain that occurs most frequently on the right side of the body, just under the ribs. The pain is due to spasms in the diaphragm, which is the muscular area that separates the lungs from the abdominal cavity. Other causes of pain in the lower right side include gastrointestinal distress, which can take place when you are not sufficiently hydrated or have residue in your gastrointestinal tract, according to Rice University.
In order to reduce the occurrence of pain in the lower right side, you should warm up before running by lightly jogging or walking. You also can stretch the sides, lower back and stomach muscles in order to reduce pain. Make a conscious effort to breathe more deeply when you run, which can reduce muscle spasms. Be sure to increase your running rate slowly—attempting to increase speed or distance too fast can result in pain.
If pain when running occurs when you are running very hard or increasing your speed, this could be a side stitch, according to Cool Running. If the pain subsides when you slow down, this is another sign your pain could be due to a stitch. However, if your pain is accompanied by other abdominal symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea or vomiting, this could be a sign of abdominal upset, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
When you experience a stitch in your right side while running, slowing down your running pace can help to alleviate muscle cramping, according to Rice University. You also may wish to massage the your side, which can alleviate the pain and reduce cramping. If you suspect gastrointestinal problems are to blame for pain, be sure to hydrate prior to running as dehydration often causes stomach problems. You also may wish to avoid leaving food in the digestive tract—you may wish to drink a protein shake prior to running instead of eating food in order to avoid gastrointestinal upset.
Abdominal pain can be a nuisance when running. If the pain is mild or reduces with massage or hydration, the pain may not be cause for concern. However, if the pain is accompanied by fever, diarrhea, constipation, blood in your stool or the pain is chronic, you should consult your physician.