The Stitch

We’ve all had this one, a sudden sharp pain in the side of the upper abdomen at the base of the ribs. A side stitch typically happens when you’re really pushing yourself and fades quickly when you slow down or stop. The stitch is particularly common for new runners still adjusting to the rigors of running.

Likely causes:
The pain is caused by a spasm of the diaphragm, the muscle that controls your breathing. There are a number of possible reasons for this. If your breathing isn’t controlled and disciplined, the diaphragm may be complaining. If you are running too soon after eating, your heavy stomach may literally be tugging at the ligaments connected to the diaphragm. Or you may simply be running too fast for your body’s breathing machinery to keep up.

A stitch will usually go away quickly after just slowing down or stopping. If you’re in a race or you just don’t want to stop, however, you can often make it go away by bringing your breathing into careful control. Concentrate on belly breathing, pushing your belly out when you breathe in and relaxing it as you breathe out. Take deep breaths on the intake, and exhale suddenly, even noisily. To get the diaphragm to contract in rhythm with your steps, try to inhale and exhale as you land on your left foot. Strange but true, this can help prevent spasms by encouraging the diaphragm to bounce along in sync with your stride.

If the pain is just too much and you have to stop, try bending over and raising your knee on the stitch side while pressing your fingers deep into the painful area and tightening your stomach muscles. Or just walk while belly breathing.


Tips for Blister Prevention

With a little forethought, blisters, in most cases, can be avoided and cause very little trouble.

 Signs and Symptoms

These painful, fluid-filled lesions on the outer layer of your skin–usually your feet–always have a layer of skin covering them. Their color can range from clear to red or blue if blood vessels break. If you pay close attention to your body, you’ll feel a blister before it has even formed. The area will start to feel “hot” and uncomfortable. Stop right now and the blister will never form. Keep going, and you’ll have no doubt that you have a blister. At the very least, a small blister will burn and tingle slightly. A large blister can become so painful it will force you to stop exercising.


Improper Shoes: Shoes that are too big or too small can cause your foot to move around too much, or to continually hit the side of the shoe. This friction causes blisters.

The Wrong Socks: Wearing socks that are too big or too small, or ones that are made of an irritating material, can cause blisters. Wearing no socks at all can also cause problems.

Protruding Foot Parts: Sometimes a prominent part of your foot, such as a bunion or hammer toes, sticks out and rubs against your shoes and causes friction.

Too Much Moisture: If you exercise in shoes that are damp from sweat or rain, it will cause your foot to slide around and cause friction.

Change in Exercise Surface: The friction of running on hot surfaces, such as an asphalt street in the middle of the day can cause blisters. Also, switching to a different track can be the culprit.


Drain the blister. If the blister is very large and painful, boil a needle or razor blade for 15 minutes to sterilize it. Cleanse the area with alcohol and slightly puncture the blister two or three times. The liquid will drain out and relief should be immediate. Do not take the piece of skin that acts as the roof of the blister off. This skin will protect the tender skin underneath. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic and place a gauze pad over the blister. Tape the pad around the blister. Remove the pad at night to allow air to circulate.

Minor Problems Every Runner Deals With

Runners have several minor problems that they may have to deal with while training.  The following problems effect the novice runner to the elite runners.  The problems are usually more irritating that painful.

Blisters are really minor burns caused by friction.  They can be prevented by wearing properly fitted shoes.  At the first sign of a blister, cover the skin with moleskin or a bandage.  The individual should release the fluid by slicing the side of the blister, treat it with antiseptic, and cover with a band-aid.

Muscle soreness usually develops 24 hours after running.  It occurs in the muscles involved and may be due to microscopic tears in the muscle, connective tissue, or muscle fibers.  Muscle soreness usually occurs at the beginning of the season,  after a harder than usual workout, or a longer than usual workout.  I have experienced muscle soreness after running with someone who is significantly slower than me.  You can minimize the soreness by gradually increasing runs and stretching before running.  If you develop muscle soreness lightly stretch the area.

Muscle cramps are powerful involuntary muscle contractions.  Normally we tell our muscles when to contract and relax.  Cramps are the result of a muscle not relaxing.  Relief comes when the cramped muscle is stretched and massaged.  However that doesn’t remove the cause of the contraction.  Salt and calcium are both involved in the chemistry of a cramp/ contraction.  Cold muscles cramp more often so it is important to warm up properly before running.  During hot weather it is important to keep replacing salt and potassium.

Bone bruises usually occur on the bottom of a runners foot.  These bruises can be prevented by careful foot placement and  buying quality shoes.  A bruise can delay you running for several weeks.  There is no instant cure for a bruise, so preventing one is  best.

Ankle problems such as ankle sprains should be iced immediately.  If you ice the ankle immediately you have a better chance of running the next day.  Ankle wraps, lace up supports of tape help runners return after an ankle sprain while giving the weaken ankle support.  First aid for a sprained ankle in ice, compression and elevation.