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What Causes Side Aches?

Side aches, often called "stitches," are usually caused by a spasm of the diaphragm or abdominal muscles, often triggered by vigorous exercise or improper breathing techniques. Dehydration and eating too close to a workout can also contribute. Curious about how to prevent these pesky pains and enhance your exercise experience? Keep reading to unlock the secrets to side ache-free workouts.
Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands

Also called a side stitch, any number of conditions can cause a person to experience side aches. These conditions include Chrohn’s disease, gallstones and diverticulitis. One of the most common causes of this type of pain, however, is appendicitis. Not all side aches are directly attributed to a medical cause. In some instances, people can experience a side stitch in abdominal muscles from laughing too hard or from a lack of hydration while running or exercising.

Appendicitis occurs as the result of the appendix becoming infected. Upon infection, the organ begins to swell and produces a sudden onset of pain. Side aches resulting from appendicitis will generally begin near the naval area before moving to the lower right side of the body. Other symptoms may also include a slight fever, a noticeable swelling in the abdominal area, constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Kidney stones can cause extreme side pain.
Kidney stones can cause extreme side pain.

As an inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease occurs in the digestive tract or the small intestine. Symptoms of this disease include right side aches, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, fever and weight loss. This disease can affect any gender and, in some cases, can affect more than one member of a family.

Gallstones may form in the gallbladder as the result of increased cholesterol levels in bile or from too much bilirubin or bile salts being present. Each of these conditions can cause bile to harden and form stones, which will cause side aches as these stones interrupt the normal passing of bile through the ducts connecting the small intestine and the liver.

Appendicitis from an inflamed appendix can cause side pain.
Appendicitis from an inflamed appendix can cause side pain.

Diverticulitis, which is the formation of pouches that bulge through the colon, causes side aches. Other symptoms likely to accompany aches include fever, constipation and bloating. Side pain from diverticulitis occurs in the lower left side of the abdomen.

Kidney pain usually affects the side and the back when one or more stones have formed in that organ. Sometimes accompanied with intense side aches are symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Severe cases of kidney stones may also cause blood in the urine.

Gallstones may cause side aches.
Gallstones may cause side aches.

Side aches from running or exercising are common occurrences. Mostly, these aches are due to a lack of hydration, particularly if exercising in warm weather. Pain that is not necessarily related to hydration, however, is known as exercise-related transient abdominal pain, or ETAP. Researchers do not know the exact cause of ETAP, but it commonly affects professional athletes and is sometimes overcome by chiropractic therapies.

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    • Kidney stones can cause extreme side pain.
      By: erik gould
      Kidney stones can cause extreme side pain.
    • Appendicitis from an inflamed appendix can cause side pain.
      By: p6m5
      Appendicitis from an inflamed appendix can cause side pain.
    • Gallstones may cause side aches.
      By: JackF
      Gallstones may cause side aches.
    • Herniated discs may cause side aches.
      By: damato
      Herniated discs may cause side aches.
    • A computed tomography (CT) scan can be used to determine the cause of abdominal pain.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      A computed tomography (CT) scan can be used to determine the cause of abdominal pain.
    • Proper hydration can help prevent side pain while exercising.
      By: anyaivanova
      Proper hydration can help prevent side pain while exercising.
    • Side aches from running or exercises are common occurrences.
      By: Yeko Photo Studio
      Side aches from running or exercises are common occurrences.