Science | LS Answers – Why do we get a stitch?

That side spitting pain so many  sports people this week are probably trying to forget. Why does exercise cause such agony in your gut, why does something good for you have to be so painful? For such a mild aliment and something that has affected everyone at some point during their sporting career (or secondary school P.E), scientists are still unsure about the exact causes of the phenomenon. Many theories have been published on its causes and a few refuted. The most recent orthodoxy is that stitch is caused by irritation of the parietal peritoneum, the membrane linings of the inside wall of the abdominal cavity. One membrane coats the organs and the other the abdominal wall. The two layers are separated and lubricated to ensure smooth movement, however, it is thought during exercise the layers may begin to rub, exciting nerves imbedded in the abdominal wall causing pain signals. An expanded stomach is thought to exacerbate the friction, explaining its occurrence after eating.

How to avoid such agony? Consume the required sustenance a few hours before the event and allow your stomach to deflate during digestion. Eating and drinking a little and regularly just previous to exercise can also prevent your stomach expanding, reducing stitch arising.


Henry Beach


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