Side Aches And Shooting Pains (Redux)

A reader writes:

Dear Ray: Awhile ago you answered a reader’s question about side-stitches that was equally informative and made me laugh so hard I spit coffee all over my computer screen!! I was looking for it to show my Girlfriend (whom has been battling side-stiches since she started running) and could not find it! Did you delete it!?

— dodgybiker9

Dear dodgybiker9:

Yes, I did delete it, just recently. But here it is again:

Dear Ray Harvey: I’m a fellow who exercises regularly. As a result, I often find myself the victim of a multitude of aches and pains, including these peculiar shooting pains in my balls. Without a doubt, though, the pain that plagues me most are side aches. What ARE these things?

Doubled Over

Dear Doubled Over: The side stitch is a mysterious thing. One theory, by far the most commonly accepted these days, is that side aches are the result of the diaphragm going into a state of what some call tetanic contraction, which is basically another of these generic terms that means next to nothing. When we inhale, our lungs fill with air. This in turn presses downward upon the diaphragm. Exhaling brings the diaphragm back up, so that if there’s any trapped air below the diaphragm, the diaphragm will cramp on the right-hand side. This same sort of cramping can also come about if food is consumed just before exercising.

There are a number of ideas about how best to prevent the side stitch — among them: take deep, deep belly breaths; eat more calcium; warm up gradually; strengthen the lower back and the midsection; avoid running downhill; avoid eating before exercise. But this is mostly just talky-talky, with probably not a hell of a lot of truth to it. Plenty of people, for instance, get side aches on their left-hand side, or even on both sides simultaneously. I know because I happen to be one of these people, as you can see. Additionally, plenty of people eat and drink immediately before exercising, or even during exercise, and yet never get side stitches. Also, many people run downhill and do not get them. In short, sir, I’m afraid you’re on your own.

Best of luck with your balls.

1 Comment

  • Redmond

    April 1, 2011


    I remember Gettin g side stitches – I got them when I was 12 or 13 but not really after that.


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