The signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis: when too much exercise is detrimental to your health

We know that “more” does not necessarily mean “better”, and the same thing happens with exercise; If the variables of our training, such as volume or intensity, are excessively high, and we prolong this situation for a long time, we may run the risk of suffering problems such as rhabdomyolysis.

What is rhabdomyolysis?

The Rhabdomyolysis is a medical syndrome that stems from excessive muscle damage, skeletal muscle necrosis and the release of cell contents into the bloodstream.

This condition can occur in many forms, although it usually involves rather high muscle pain, weakness, and malaise, and can lead to much more serious consequences such as kidney failure and cardiac arrhythmias.


The mildest level of this problem is a simple asymptomatic increase in the levels of the enzyme creatine kinase (CK), which is often used as an indicator of muscle damage, and precisely this damage is what we intend to detect as soon as possible…

However, a much more advanced situation of rhabdomyolysis can even become deadly due to alterations in the electrolyte balance and acute renal failure which, in addition to the excretion of urine, also prevents the excretion of muscular tissue into the blood.

Usually, this syndrome causes weakness in the extremities and myalgias, but the most common symptom in both traumatic and non-traumatic rhabdomyolysis is pigmenturia, that is, the change in color of the urine (usually this becomes much more dark, with a very marked tendency towards brown).

The presence of this triad of symptoms is the most common way to clinically detect the presence of this adverse condition.

Why rhabdomyolysis occurs

Although rhabdomyolysis frequently occurs due to a direct traumatic injury, the condition can also be the result of infections, muscle ischemia, metabolic disorders, electrolyte imbalances, genetic alterations, or even drug use.

In adults, for example, it is observed that the most common causes of rhabdomyolysis are drug abuse (including alcohol and certain drugs), neuroleptic malignant syndrome, immobilization, and trauma.

Physical causes include road accidents, prolonged immobilization (for example in the elderly or after an operation), strenuous exercise, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, arterial occlusion (for thrombi, for example), hyperthermia, neuroleptic syndrome malignant, heat strokes and hypothermia.

The remaining causes include drug use, certain infections, electrolyte imbalances (hypokalemia, hypophosphatemia, hypocalcemia, hyponatremia, hypernatremia …), endocrine disorders (hypothyroidism, diabetic ketoacidosis, and hyperaldosteronism, mainly), autoimmune disorders, genetic defects relative to glucide and lipid metabolism, and susceptibility to hyperthermia.

In general, rhabdomyolysis is a much more complex problem than we think, and although it can occur due to very prolonged or intense overexertion, its etiology is really complex. In any case, if the triad of symptoms that we have previously commented on is fulfilled, it would be best to get medical attention as soon as possible.

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