Stomach Pain

Can cycling lead to rib pain?

Fact Checked

Rib pain is not always considered as an indication of a damaged rib. Among those who engage in cycling, it is often an indication of a muscle cramp commonly called as stitches. This is quite common among runners, swimmers, cyclists as well as horseback riders. Once the area is bruised, becomes painful when moving in a twisting motion or tender to the touch, it simply indicates a cracked or injured rib. A doctor should be consulted if any of these symptoms are present.

What are the symptoms?

The rib pain triggered by stitches typically manifest below the right rib cage, but can also occur on the left side of the body. The degree of pain tends to vary depending on the severity of the cramps.

In intense cases, it can be felt as a piercing, stabbing rib pain. For moderate cases, it can be a cramping, pulling or aching feeling.

What are the possible causes?

The exact cause responsible for triggering stitches is unclear but it is believed to be spasm of the diaphragm which is a sturdy muscle responsible for controlling breathing. A common theory why the cramp occurs is that the organs and intestines attached to the diaphragm by tissue and tendons strain on it.

Any activity that causes upward and downward movement that jars the intestines places pressure on the diaphragm, thus resulting to the cramping sensation. Understandably, the diaphragm cramps and contracts the adjacent muscles in the area of the rib cage.

Preventive measures

Rib pain
Any activity that causes upward and downward movement that jars the intestines places pressure on the diaphragm, thus resulting to the cramping sensation.

There are several precautionary measures in order to avoid the rib pain caused by stitches. Initially which cycling, it is vital to focus on breathing and taking deep even breaths. Avoid overexertion since it can lead to fast breathing and subsequent episodes of cramping.

An ideal way to tell that you are at the right pace is if you can continue with normal conversation while cycling. It is best to avoid eating too soon before activity.

Do not forget to drink plenty of fluids to keep the body properly hydrated since dehydration can lead to cramps. The abdominal muscles should also be stretched out before and after activity. In addition, strengthening of the core muscles can help minimize the risk for stitches from developing in the first place.


If the individual experienced a stitch while cycling, it is essential to slow down the pace or stop altogether to reduce the pain. Holding the affected area and slowly squeezing it or massaging it can often relax the muscle and minimize the cramps.

In case the individual stopped cycling, he/she must focus on slow, deep breaths while pushing the belly outwards when inhaling and relaxing it during exhalation.

Considerations to bear in mind

Even though stitches are the usual cause of rib pain, there might be other underlying conditions that cause the pain. A damaged rib is typically due to trauma and can be accompanied by other symptoms but there might also be an issue with one of the organs or the ribs themselves.

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