Sports Medicine: Exercise-Induced Abdominal Pain
What is exercise-induced abdominal pain?
Exercise induced abdominal pain, commonly called a “side stitch”, is a sharp pain just below the rib cage, usually on the right side of the abdomen. Distance runners commonly experience exercise induced abdominal pain after long periods of inactivity or during changes in workout intensity.
What causes exercise-induced abdominal pain?
The cause of exercise induced abdominal pain is thought to be related to the ligaments that connect the diaphragm to the internal organs. The pain comes from the jarring of the internal organs while running and the increased activity of the diaphragm at the same time. This increased activity causes stretching to the ligaments of the abdomen. It is thought that this repeated stretching makes the diaphragm spasm or cramp.
What are the symptoms of exercise-induced abdominal pain?
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Pain often on right side below the ribs
- Pain begins with heavy breathing
- Usually improves when breathing slows
How is exercise-induced abdominal pain diagnosed?
A thorough history and physical exam by a physician is used to diagnose exercise induced abdominal pain. A physician will be able to determine if the athlete is suffering from exercise induced abdominal pain or something more severe. It is important to seek medical treatment, if you have reoccurring symptoms or symptoms that don’t go away with rest.
What is the treatment for exercise-induced abdominal pain?
Treatment for exercise induced abdominal pain is to slow your breathing and take deeper breaths. You can also use one hand to apply pressure to the area. If the pain does not subside in a few minutes, activity should be stopped until the pain subsides.
What is the long term outlook for exercise-induced abdominal pain?
Exercise induced abdominal pain generally does not last for a long period of time and resolves fairly quickly. However, if you are experiencing exercise induced abdominal pain on a regular basis, it is important to consult you physician in order to make sure that you are not suffering from a more serious condition.