Running cramps, or “exercise-related transient abdominal pain,” are typically harmless but can definitely make it hard to enjoy a run and keep up the pace—whether you’re preparing for a marathon or setting out on your very first run. Younger and less experienced athletes tend to experience them more often, and they are most likely caused by fatigue in the diaphragm muscle. The good news? Running cramps go away on their own when you rest or slow your pace, and become much less common as you build up your stamina.
So, is there anything you can do about running cramps other than slowing your pace and waiting for them to abate? Increasing your overall fitness is the best solution, but our tips for reducing side pain when running can help you keep up the pace!
Whether you’re new to exercise or running at a faster pace than normal, rapid breathing can put more strain on your diaphragm muscle. Located directly below the lungs, it is the main respiratory muscle and can be fatigued by the extra strain. One theory about why your side hurts when you run is that the diaphragm becomes tired, creating the sensation that you know as running cramps. Running cramps can strike whether you’re on the treadmill or running along Lake Michigan.
Of course, preventing running cramps in the first place is better than trying to resolve them mid-run! Take these steps to reduce the chances you’ll suffer from side pain when running:
If you’re dealing with persistent running cramps during your runs, a physical therapist may be able to help. A personalized program of stretches and strength-building exercises can target the problem and put you back on track (and back on the track). With locations in Champaign-Urbana and the greater Chicago area, it’s easy to find an IMPACT Physical Therapy facility near you. Schedule an appointment to learn how PT can help you stay healthy and prevent running injuries for the long haul.