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Abdominal Pain While Running: Cause, Treatment & Prevention

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Experiencing abdominal pain, also known as a stitch, cramping, or exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP) while going for a run could be caused by many things.

Some of the causes may be dehydration, overhydration, eating too soon before exercising, or not breathing deeply enough.

Today we will discuss the causes, treatment, and prevention of abdominal pain while running. 

Cause of abdominal pain

There could be many things that cause you to have abdominal pain while you are running. And here are a few of the causes below:

  1. Not breathing deeply enough with your diaphragm
  2. Electrolyte imbalance
  3. Eating too much
  4. Food taking longer to digest
  5. Starting your run too fast
  6. Stress and anxiety
  7. Dehydration or overhydration

If you have abdominal pain that lasts after you have slowed down your running pace or stopped running, please seek emergency medical help. 

Treating abdominal pain

The treatment for abdominal pain, cramping, or ETAP can be simple. And usually takes a little thought and attention to the things that may be causing the pain in the first place.

A few ways to treat the pain are as follows:

  1. Stop and rest
  2. Walk and take a few deep breaths from your diaphragm for a few minutes
  3. Take small sips of a sports drink with electrolytes
  4. Expel gas by burping or fluctuating
  5. Slow down your pace

Treating your abdominal pain may take some checking off boxes and marking things off the list to know the culprit and prevent the cramping or pain from coming back.

But, once you know what it is, you are one step closer to a happier run. If you are experiencing pain due to overeating or eating the wrong thing, you may need to stop running and walk the rest of your distance. 

Preventing abdominal pain

abdominal pain when running

Let’s talk about prevention! This is when you should text yourself, write this information down someplace, or let a friend know what food, drink, or pace causes your stomach to hurt so you can avoid it.

Or so that you know you should start at a 9:00 minute pace and finish at an 8:00 minute pace instead of the other way around. 

Ways to prevent abdominal pain while you are running are to:

  1. Wait at least 2 hours after eating to run (if this is not helpful, wait longer)
  2. Hydrate throughout the day (at least 45 minutes before running) and drink around 2-4 ounces of water every 15 minutes during your run
  3. Start your run with a slower pace and finish with a faster pace 
  4. Eat fruits and vegetables to help with hydration 
  5. Find ways that help you to cope with stress (talking it through with your coach, meditation)
  6. Practice deep breathing techniques
  7. Find out what foods bother your stomach
  8. Avoid hypertonic beverages (high salt and sugar content)

Finding ways to prevent abdominal cramping, pain, or upset may help you to get back to enjoying your runs. And know how to adjust your runs accordingly. 

When to seek emergency help

If you have sharp abdominal pain that does not go away when you decrease your pace or stop running, it may be more serious than gas, cramping, stomach upset, or generalized abdominal pain.

Some severe abdominal pain may not be serious, and some mild abdominal pain may need attention, but if you have any of the following signs or symptoms, seek out medical attention immediately:

  1. Vomiting blood 
  2. Blood in your stool
  3. Fever
  4. Nausea and vomiting
  5. Yellowing of the skin
  6. The abdomen is tender to the touch 
  7. Swelling in the abdominal area
  8. Weight loss

These signs and symptoms may indicate that there is something serious going on that needs immediate attention. Do not hesitate to contact your Primary Care Provider (PCP) for further guidance or go to your local emergency room (ER).

To close

As you have read, having abdominal pain while running can be the result of many different things. And it is crucial that you keep track of what is causing the pain or cramping so you can avoid the food, wait longer before running, or increase your hydration.

Knowing your body is a vital part of fitness, and listening to it may help you have a continuously happy and healthy fitness journey. 


  1. Doheny, K., How to Stop Runners' Cramps, Medical Website
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff, Abdominal pain, Clinic
  3. Morton, D., & Callister, R., Exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP), Journal
  4. Roberts, W.O., What’s Causing My Sudden Abdominal Pain?, Running Site

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