The permanent side stitch

About four weeks ago I went out for a 7 mile run with my Run Club. It was chilly outside, but I managed to pull off the run - my longest in quite some time at that point. At the end of the 3.4 mile loop, I started to get a side stitch on my right side - just under my ribs. Because I was getting back to the parking lot at that point, I slowed to a walk and got some water from my car. Within less than a minute, the stitch was gone.

Fast forward a week, and I was out for an 8 mile run. At about mile 7, the stitch made a brief appearance. I slowed to a jog, took some deep breaths and it seemed to pass. Awesome.

At Sunday's ten mile race, at mile 8 the stitch made an appearance - this time much stronger and more focused. I slowed to a jog to work it out and managed to get it down to "dull" pain rather than "piercing" so that was enough to get me through to the finish. In fact, by Mile 9, the stitch was pretty much gone. That afternoon when I got home, I showered and collapsed onto the couch for a 4 episode marathon of Rescue Me. By the time I pried myself off the couch, the stitch had returned in its duller sense.

I hate to say that it has yet to really go away.

After reading all on the interwebs, I originally narrowed it down to three types of cancers, a hernia, gall bladder attack or appendicitis. As I worked my way to hysteria, I started calling every doctor in town to see if I could get in before my half marathon on Sunday. The soonest I could get an appointment was late April - some places even told me JULY. I made the appointment for April, and luckily the pain seems to be subsiding. After talking to a few runner types, they think that maybe I've overextended a tendon near the diaphragm. This actually makes sense (unlike cancer), so it's the one I am running with (literally) right now. I am full on embracing a taper this week. No swim, no run, no nothing actually. I am just going to let my body take it easy.

I required myself to not toss and turn last night and remain on my back sleeping. This morning, the dull pain didn't make an appearance until I twisted funny to pick up a pen off the floor at work. The tendon theory seems to be holding strong.

Anyone else had something like this happen before?

I am still flying to Kansas on Saturday morning, and I will be crossing the finish line with my buddy D on Sunday. And hopefully the side stays in tact until April 27.


Big Daddy Diesel said...

THat sucks, I have not had that, I had a couple that lasted for 24 hours or at least sore in the ribs for 24 hours. I hope its nothing and you get to see a doc

What half are you doing, I am doing my very first half on sunday as well, Glass City up in Toledo, and I admit, I am scared to death

M said...

I will be sending you awesome vibes on Sunday, BDD! I am doing the Hy-Vee Half Marathon in Lawrence, KS with a friend of mine. It's her first half, so I am there to make sure she gets to the finish with somewhat of a smile on her face. My "A" race will be the Indy Mini Marathon on May 7.

I'm a bit nervous about Sunday too.....

Christi said...

Good luck with your 1/2 this weekend. I love Lawrence. I did my first 1/2 Ironman there last year.

As to the "side stitch", I coughed a rib out of place last year and that sucked! That made almost every movement painful I wish you be the best of luck and I am sending you great vibes for this weekend!

M said...

Thanks, Christi!!!! I had thought about the rib issue too - if I can just plow through Sunday, I'll be able to get into a doc and hopefully figure it out if it doesn't work itself out!!!

And very cool about the IM in Lawrence - maybe I'll work my way up to that someday :-)

Matthew Smith said...

Good luck on your half-marathon this weekend. You're gonna rock it! I hope the pain doesn't hold you back any. When I look for medical answers on the internet, I usually start freaking out that I'm dying! Thanks for your comments on my blog...you made me feel a lot better.

Emily said...

I had the same thing happen to me but after 1.5 miles and I blame the tendon! I did internet searching and read a lot about breathing techniques so you don't put too much stress on it.

Suggestion 1: When you breath make sure your tummy goes out when you inhale and in when you exhale. This means you're using your diaphragm. During the inhale your diagram is low so the tendon isn't being pulled. If you always have your diaphragm up and breath via moving your shoulders you're constantly pulling on the tendon.

Suggestion 2: I also read that if you breathing is paced by your steps it's a good idea to not have the start of exhaling be a right foot step. Imagine you're right foot extended as you step and your diagram pulled up at the exhale, lots of pulling on the tendon. To alternate sides you just breath in one less/more count than breathing out. I find 3 steps in, 4 steps out to be the best.

I hope that helps! It takes some time to get used to focusing so much on breathing but I find it makes for a great litmus test. If my breathing gets out of wack I'm probably running too fast. Plus I've only experienced the side stich once in the last year or so and that's because I had to pee real bad!

M said...

Em - thanks so much for those tips - I have read a bit about that stuff too - I will give it a shot, but it seems like so much to think about when running! ha!!

T said...

Okay, I don't mean to scare you, but... my blood clots started with sharp pains in my chest. It's most likely that this is NOT your problem, but I'll feel better once you've seen a doctor!

M said...

T, thanks for the heads up - because of your story and the stories I have seen of others, that's why I don't just want to ignore this. Since the pain seems to be subsiding, I won't rush to urgent care, but I am keeping my appointment for the end of the month. I want to make sure everything is okay!