Getting Rid of Side Stitches While Hiking
Hiking may be a past-time or tradition for some, for others it might just be a new way to get some exercise that seems like a good idea. Let's go through some simple techniques and tricks to get rid of cramps in your side or even in your legs and feet while hiking.
Side Stitches (Cramps in Your Side)
People sometimes get a terrible cramp or "stitch" along one side of their torso if they try to go for a walk right after eating a lot of food, but you don't have to stuff your face with unhealthy foods to get a side cramp, most everyone is going to get one at least once or twice in their lifetime, probably a whole lot more than that.
Now, there are a great deal of little things that you can do to help, breathing patterns and the like, and I'll get into all of this in a second, but really it seems that you may get a cramp in your side at some point during your hike even if you follow all of the best practices. I ALWAYS bring a little bottle along with me in my pack called "Stops Leg Cramps".
Before you get scared, the product contains nothing but apple cider vinegar, ginger, and garlic. I couldn't tell you exactly WHY it works, but taking a small sip from the bottle and washing it down with a bit of water always seems to stop a cramp in a matter of seconds. Amish people have used this remedy for cramps for over 100 years. You can read a bunch of speculation about vitamins/minerals and cramps, and this stuff is filled with vitamins, so that might be a factor, but it really works FAST and I love it.
The bottle is a little bit smaller than a small water bottle, so you shouldn't have a hard time bringing it along, and you really won't regret it. You can also take a dose or two before you head out for your hike and it'll prevent the side cramps, but I prefer to bring it along with me and if I don't need it then I'll know that I've been taking good care of myself.
(check it out here)
I try to go for a quick hike twice every week. I also do my best to choose walking over taking the car, and regularly head out for walks around my neighborhood whenever work permits. You could say I'm an experienced walker, but I still sometimes get side pains that I believe are due to bad breathing patterns - Nobody's perfect!
Shallow breathing that consists mostly in the upper area of your chest should be avoided, a good breathing pattern should take the air all the way down towards your stomach before being exhaled. A big part of successful and long-distance hiking is setting a pace and sticking to it - choose a walking pace that allows you these full breaths the whole way through, and increase your pace as your lungs permit if you like, or slow down if you are getting a bit winded.
Diet and Lifestyle
Your diet and lifestyle habits can greatly increase or decrease your chances of getting a side stitch, and if you seem to be getting lots of cramps no matter what you do, it might be that you need to make some changes to your day-to-day habits to improve your general health before anything else will really work for you.
Over-exercising can cause cramps; not exercising enough can cause your muscles to cramp as well. If you don’t have enough sodium in your body it might cause a cramp, but too much salt might dry you out and do the same thing.
All types of muscle cramps are very common, and just because you get one doesn’t exactly mean that something is wrong with you, even if they are terribly painful. Give the Stops Leg Cramps remedy I mentioned above a try, and try to just make one small improvement to your health and habits every day. If you really do it, you'll very likely cure yourself of the problem completely, and it'll probably never bother you again in the future.
Water can really be a double-edged sword when it comes to cramps. Drink too much water and you'll get a terrible stitch in your side if you continue walking, but neglect to hydrate yourself on a long walk and you may end up getting a side stitch anyways.
Over time, failing to hydrate can build up and increase your chances of getting a cramp, so remember to drink water ALL the time, not just before or during a hike.
This one is pretty obvious, but I figure I 'ought to touch on it anyways. Before any sort of exercise it is extremely important that you do at least some amount of stretching. I understand that everyone isn't a soon-to-be Olympian, and sometimes it is nice to be able to get right into it and start walking, but try to do your best to make it a routine among yourself (and anyone you go hiking with) to have a little warm-up stretch before beginning.
I really love the amount of peace my mind gets after being on a hike for more than an hour or two, so I do my best to find longer routes every time I go. On these longer hikes it is important that you bring all the necessary supplies with you in the event of an emergency, so me and my hiking buddies have made it a ritual to check our gear while performing some simple stretches together at the same time. We never forget to do it, and our muscles are always willing to work with us as best they can.
What Types of Cramps Give you the Most Problems While Hiking?
Other Cramps and Muscle Pains While Hiking
Muscle cramps that cause your leg or feet muscles to tighten painfully can sometimes be alot worse than the steady poking sensation that you feel during a side stitch. Let's just say they are both equally bad.
Hydration, diet, proper stretching, and lifestyle habits can all contribute to these cramps, but you aren't going to be able to do much to stop the terrible pain in your calf with breathing patterns or a glass of water.
If you've got your bottle of the Amish remedy I mentioned earlier with you on your hike, a swig from the bottle or a few capfulls can stop these muscle cramps in just a few seconds too, same as it does for the ones in your sides. I put a link to their website just above this section of the article if you missed it.
Another thing that I have found to work is to put some pressure on the muscle. Try to force yourself to push down with the cramping foot or leg into the floor, it might hurt at first but it is often times a lot better than trying to use as little of your muscle as possible. It's also a very good idea to try different pairs of shoes if you think they might have something to do with it.
So, there you have it. A not-so-brief guide to dealing with side stitches, and I've also now added a bit of information about taking care of cramps that happen in your legs and feet. I hope this article has proven helpful to you in some way, and I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Keep on Hiking!