What is a Stitch?

My once-a-day lockdown exercise has taken the form of a brief run around my local park.  There is no great distance involved; and no world records challenged.  Just a bit of a jog, to maintain a decent level of fitness.

Typically, I start the run from immediately outside my front door and, equally typically, I seldom bother to do any warm-up exercises before I set off.  The result?  I am often suffering with a stitch before I have even reached the park and am forced to slow up a bit to recover.

So, bent over, panting inelegantly, clasping the side of my midriff; it got me thinking.  What exactly is a stitch?

Seems like the most obvious question in the world, doesn’t it?  After all, we’ve all had them; we all know what they feel like.  But, just what is a stitch?  And, I’m not talking here about the dodgy darning repair that I might make in my football socks, I mean the dull ache we get in our side when we over-exert ourselves at sport.

I mean is there a scientific name for it?  What causes it?  How do you recover from it?  Why have I never thought to query this before?

Returned home, my stitch now vanished, I turned to my regular house physician and the source of all information related to medical matters: Dr Google.

Despite the fact that 99% of his advice would have him struck off any civilised country’s medical register, I still place an unfeasible high degree of faith in Dr Google’s wisdom.  And so what does Dr Google say about stitches?

Bizarrely, when it comes to anything like concrete, scientific fact, Dr Google remains conspicuously silent on the simple subject of “What is a stitch?”

Apparently, there are two schools of thought.  One suggests that during exercise, blood is pumped to the limbs and away from the diaphragm, and it is this reduction in the blood supply to the diaphragm, which is the source of the pain.  The second theory believes the discomfort is caused by poor digestion and fluids, which the body finds hard to absorb, causing an irritation of the lining of the abdominal cavity.

For such a commonplace ailment, there seems to be a surprising degree of variance between the two theories; surely someone must know?

Similarly, the ways to ease a stitch are equally disputed.  Some people suggest stopping exercise and bending over or stretching; others recommend pressing down on the painful area.

So, the common or garden stitch.  No one knows what causes it; no one knows what heals it.

I’m glad I asked.

© Donnie Blake


Donnie Blake is no Joe Wicks when it comes to exercise.


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