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Exercising Too Hard: Rhabdomyolysis


From Florida Hospital

Although an active lifestyle is important to your whole health, it is possible to exercise too much. In most cases, overexertion will lead to pain and possible injury but in rare cases, it can lead to rhabdomyolysis which can be deadly. However, if it’s caught early enough the outcome is usually a full recovery. To find out more we talked to one of our physical therapy specialists, Sheila Klausner, PT, DPT, OCS, COMT, CSCS.

Rhabdomyolysis: Causes and Symptoms

Rhabdomyolysis is a rare but serious syndrome in which your muscles start breaking down and polluting your bloodstream and in turn, can cause renal (kidney) failure and even death. Getting help quickly after you’ve begun to show symptoms will ensure that things get better before they get worse. Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis include intense muscle pain, swelling, nausea, and dark urine. There are many ways this can happen, including crushing injuries, electrical shock, snake bites, drug abuse, certain medications, high fever, or heat stroke, and more, but overexertion through exercise is a common, preventable cause.

Listen to Your Body

“Whenever you’re changing up your workout regimen in any significant way, you should always check with your healthcare provider first,” says Klausner. “You can’t go from being a couch potato to training like an Olympic athlete overnight or there’ll be consequences. People who didn’t work out before joining the military and then have to go through boot camp, for example, can end up getting sick with rhabdomyolysis.”

“It’s important to listen to your body and to know when enough is enough. The, ‘no pain, no gain,’ mentality can be dangerous if taken too far. You have to listen to your body and know the difference between simple muscle fatigue which is good for your muscles and pain which is an indicator of something being very wrong,” advises Klausner. “Pushing through the pain, as they say, only means to the point of muscle fatigue. Anything beyond that can cause serious injury. And if you do feel an abnormal level of pain you should consult your healthcare provider immediately.”

Day of Rest

“Another thing to remember is that you need a day of rest. Your muscles need time to recover and rebuild after strenuous exercise and it’s important that you let them have it,” says Klausner. “If you’re just starting out on a workout regimen or are a beginner, you should take a rest day every third day. Workout two days in a row and then give your body a day to rest and rebuild. People that have been doing a vigorous workout regimen for longer should still take at least 1 or 2 days a week to recover. But the important thing is to listen to your body if it needs that day of rest and to take it.”

Consult a Professional

If you or a loved one may have pushed an exercise too hard and you’re concerned about rhabdomyolysis, consult a health care professional immediately or call 911. If you’re interested in learning more about proper exercise regimens, our medical fitness program is a great resource for athletes at all levels. Please visit Florida Hospital Sports Medicine and Rehab or call 407-303-8080 to schedule an appointment with one of our trained professionals.


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