Side cramps or “side stitch” is severe pain felt below the rib cage due to a strained ligament. It can also happen on both sides of the abdomen. This pain can happen during vigorous exercises such as running and usually common among at a starting level.
Treatment of side cramps
- While running and side cramps are felt, reduce the pace to let the cramps reduce on its own. If they don’t subside, bend forward and push the painful area using the fingers to force the diaphragm to lessen the spasms by increasing flow of blood in the area.
- Apply light massage to the cramping area by placing a hand under the rib cage on one side. Inhale and exhale and gently pinch the area. Apply pressure upward and inward toward the body. Continue this gentle massage for at least 5-6 breaths.
- Inhale and exhale longer when running or working out to relax the diaphragm and relieve pressure placed on the liver and intestines. Avoid shallow breathing to prevent raising the diaphragm and produce plenty of pressure on the ligaments.
- Synchronize the breathing pattern with running to relieve pressure placed on the diaphragm. The rhythm of breathing while running affects the pressure on the ligaments that connects the diaphragm to the liver.
- Stretch the affected area to relieve side cramps. Stop running or exercise and raise the arm on the affected side that is cramping up in the air. Lean to the opposite side to stretch the area that is cramping. Remain in that position for at least 2-5 seconds, relax and repeat again 3-5 times.
- Stop running or performing exercises and touches the toes to lighten pressure on the adominal area especially when a gas is trapped in the intestines that can cause the cramps.
- Bend at least 45-90 degrees at the waist when running to lessen the pressure placed on the liver and minimize cramps. Run 15 meters with the body bent at the waist and slowly straighten up the body to keep running.
- Avoid eating at least 1-2 hours before running or performing a workout. After eating, wait at least 1 hour before performing strenuous activities or exercises to give enough time for the body to digest.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day and during physical activities to prevent episodes of side cramps. Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day to prevent dehydration.
- Avoid drinking concentrated fruit juices and other drinks high in carbohydrates such as added sugars.
- Warm up before exercising such as gentle jogging or calisthenics for at least 5-10 minutes.
- Avoid shallow breathing which uses only a small portion of the total capacity of the lungs.
- When running, do forced exhalation as if blowing out candles. Tighten the lips while exhaling and breathe deeply.
The details posted on this page on side cramps is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage side cramps, enroll in a first aid course with one of our training providers.