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Into Fitness - Ever wondered about that pain in your side?

Have you experienced that annoyingpain in your side when youexercise? Most people haveexperienced the "side stitch,"that sharp twinge of pain just below the ribcage at some point in their life, most oftenon the right side of the body.

Have you experienced that annoyingpain in your side when youexercise? Most people haveexperienced the "side stitch,"that sharp twinge of pain just below the ribcage at some point in their life, most oftenon the right side of the body.

In the scientific world, the side stitchis referred to as "exercise related transientabdominal pain." The pain iscaused by a spasm of the diaphragmmuscle. The jarring motion of runningwith certain breathing and gait patternscan cause stretching of the ligamentsthat extend from the diaphragm to theinternal organs (in particular, the liver),leading to spasm.

The first factor to consider is breathing.When you inhale, your lungs fillwith air and force your diaphragm downward.When you exhale your lungs contractand your diaphragm rises. Thesecond part of this equation is your gaitpattern. Research has shown that 70 percent of people exhale as the left foot hitsthe ground. It is the other 30 per cent ofus that exhale when the right foot hitsthe ground that seem to be more proneto get side stitches. Why?

As your right foot strikes the ground,gravity forces your internal organs downward.Some of these organs are attached tothe diaphragm, which in turn pulls thediaphragm downward. If you're exhalingat the same time as your right foot hits theground, your diaphragm is being pulledupward as your liver is dropping down.This creates a stretching of the diaphragmmuscle and the ligaments that are attachedto your internal organs, which in turncauses the pain.

Breathing is the key to preventingside stitches. Short, shallow breathstend to increase the risk of crampingbecause the diaphragm never lowersenough to allow the ligaments to relax.Taking long, even, deep breaths duringexercise should help reduce the pain.Improving your cardiovascular fitnesswill improve your breathing and reducethe incidence of side stitches. And don'tshy away from the water cooler whenyou're exercising. Dehydration canincrease muscle cramps so it is advisedto drink plenty of water prior to, during,and after exercise. Warming up properly,gradually increasing your intensity, andstrengthening and stretching your coremuscles will also help.

And if the pain does hit, place yourhand into the right side of your belly andpush, lifting the liver slightly. Take long,deep even breaths as you push up.Stretching can also relieve the pain.Raise your right arm straight up and leantoward the left. Hold for 30 seconds,release, and then stretch the other side.

Becky Cryne is a BCRPA certifiedPersonal Trainer and Group FitnessInstructor, STOTT Pilates Mat andReformer Instructor, CFP Pre and PostNatal Fitness Specialist, and ETW YogaExercise Specialist. She can be reached atcryne@telus.net.