What causes that sudden pain mid-exercise, as though you’d been jabbed in the gut? “I’m about 99 percent sure that stitches are caused by friction between your organs and the membrane separating them from the abdominal muscles,” says Darren Morton, PhD, a physiologist at Avondale College in Australia, who’s conducted extensive research on the topic. “Since the trigger is just now being nailed down, studies have yet to focus on treatment, so aim for prevention.” Dehydration or a full stomach makes internal friction more likely, so drink plenty of H2O in the hours leading up to a workout, less just before, and smaller amounts regularly during long sessions, Morton advises. If you’re struck by a stitch nonetheless, try one of these kitchen-science tricks until a proven cure is concocted:
Slow down, bend forward at the waist, and gently press inward and upward on the painful spot with your hand.
Exhale through pursed lips.
Clench your abs as though you were about to be hit.
Switch up your breathing pattern so that you’re inhaling and exhaling on different feet than before.
If it’s too painful to go on, stop and stretch that side of your abs by bending to the opposite side.