Banishing Stitches


While I mostly blog about all the jolly good times I have when I run, sometimes running can be a pain in the sides…  Every running book or magazine will mention two strategies for getting rid of the dreaded stitches: either, you slow down and push your hand into the painful area, or you exhale sharply when your opposite foot strikes the ground. Neither of these strategies work particularly well for me, and even if they successfully banish the stitch, it takes quite a bit of time.

However, a few years ago I discovered a nifty little technique which gets rid of stitches almost instantly, every time. I’ve never heard anyone else mentioning this idea, so I thought I’d put it out there and see if it can help other runners as well. All it takes is a little practice… And because I don’t think that while hobbling about and crippled by stitches is a good time to try a new exercise, it’s probably best to try this at home first. Also, I don’t recommend that you try this with a full stomach!

Here’s what to do:

Stand with your feet slightly apart and place your hands on your quads. Then round your body slightly, by pushing your bottom back, bending the knees and leaning somewhat on your hands.

It’s time to focus on your breathing now: take a deep breath in, and then exhale all the air from your lungs and hold your breath. Now pull your navel inwards and upwards towards your spine and as far as you can and hold this position.

When I get a stitch on the run, I use the same motion: I slow my pace slightly if needed (as I won’t be breathing normally for a few strides!), then take a deep breath in before expelling all the air from my lungs and pull my navel strongly inwards and upwards. I hold this for a good few strides, as long as I comfortably can, and then release. It really is that simple, and I have found that it often cures a stitch completely after just one repetition!

If you give it a shot, please let me know if this works for you too – good luck!

(Incidentally, apart from being a runner, I also do a lot of yoga; in fact, earned most of my bread and butter while studying by teaching yoga. The idea was inspired by a rarely-taught yoga exercise called Uddiyana Bandha – or abdominal lifts.)

10 thoughts on “Banishing Stitches

  1. I don’t get a stitch that often, but I will be sure to try that next time and let you know.

  2. Trails and Ultras says:

    I don’t get them that often either, but when I do they linger for ages. I’ll give this a go next time 🙂

    • Cool – let me know how you get on! On a completely different note, I’m planning on running this: over a weekend once the days get a bit longer… if I could tempt to you to join me, you’d be super welcome! 😉

      • Trails and Ultras says:

        It looks fantastic…if only I could sort my finances out! I’m super broke at the moment training for the 10 Peaks in June and I’m signing up for the cotswold way 100 in september plus all the travel costs etc. listen to me whining on! If I can get up to Scotland it would be great (maybe August sometime) but for now I’ll just have to keep you posted. Sorry 🙂

      • I totally understand – I think everyone is broke after Chrismas! It seems that there are cheap direct flights with Flybe from Exeter to Edinburgh though, for future reference. 😉

      • Trails and Ultras says:

        Thank you- I’ll check them out 🙂

  3. Thanks for the advice, I rarely get pain in my sides but just the other day I could feel it and I was frustrated! I never know what to do other than just stop and let the pain go away.

  4. I almost never get stitches but this is a great trick!

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