Remaining Safe from Rhabdomyolysis
Moderation is the foundation of a stable workout program. Pursuing fitness goals as safely and effectively as possible is crucial to longevity in not only workouts but also overall health and wellness. While it is very important to push the muscles beyond their comfort zone during exercise, the level of exertion must completely be within reason. There is a point where excessive fitness can be unhealthy. Understanding the appropriate level of intensity, while exercising, will help to prevent a potentially dangerous condition known as rhabdomyolysis.
Usually common among individuals engaging in extreme physical activities, rhabdomyolysis affects nearly 200,000 people in the United States each year. It is common among marathon runners, Crossfit athletes and even military personnel. Rhabdomyolysis is a very serious condition but thankfully it is treatable. Following a medical diagnosis involving lab tests, recovery from rhabdomyolysis can begin. Usually, it resolves within a few days to a week.
Basically, rhabdomyolysis occurs because of excessive muscle tissue breakdown during exercise. As the muscle tissue breaks down, a protein called myoglobin is released into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is very dangerous to the kidneys and can cause serious damage to the organs. While moderate muscle tissue breakdown is normal during physical fitness, excessive breakdown of the muscle fibers can become too much for the body to handle.
The symptoms of rhabdomyolysis are very serious and should not be ignored. Nausea and vomiting along with fever, confusion and even possible loss of consciousness are some of the first warning signs. Performance of movement is impacted by rhabdomyolysis as well. It is common for someone to have trouble moving his or her arms along with extreme muscle fatigue in the legs once rhabdomyolysis starts. Joint pain is also common with the onset of the condition. Symptoms such as an abnormal/irregular heartbeat accompanied by high levels of potassium in the bloodstream can be diagnosed by a medical professional. The most distinct symptom of rhabdomyolysis is the abnormally dark color (brown or red) of a person’s urine. In some cases, a person cannot urinate at all because of rhabdomyolysis. When these symptoms are present, it is imperative that a person seek medical help. Trying to let this condition heal on its own could cause severe damage to the kidneys, which could ultimately result in kidney failure.
With an early diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis, prompt treatment can ensure a successful recovery. If medical attention is sought early, then kidney damage can be reversed; however, if symptoms are allowed to persist without treatment, then long-term kidney damage can occur. Medical professionals can aggressively treat the condition with intravenous fluids to help with a constant flow of urine production. In some rare cases, dialysis is necessary to help the kidneys filter waste products until they are performing at full capacity again. Although most causes of the condition are reversible, a person who has had rhabdomyolysis once is at risk of having it again, if proper precautions are not taken. Another important aspect of the condition is that the more muscle mass there is to potentially break down, the more dangerous rhabdomyolysis can become. This is why experienced athletes with a lot of muscle mass are at a high-risk of rhabdomyolysis, when pushing the limits of the body. Physical activity is extremely limited, while a person recovers from rhabdomyolysis. The muscles have experienced serious damage and need time to fully recover before exercise at any level can be resumed. Being aware of the body and its limitations is the first step toward preventing rhabdomyolysis.
Staying safe during workouts is rooted in preparation and proper performance. Preparing for exercise with excellent hydration habits and adequate stretching will start every fitness routine on the right foot. Drinking plenty of water before, during and after workouts will keep the kidneys flushed with fluids to prevent any problems, while also providing the cells of the body with the necessary amount of water to function. Performing any workout routine properly involves self-awareness of what an appropriate level of exertion should be during the program. Know the limits of what the body can handle. If you are just starting with a fitness program, then take small steps in progressing with the intensity of the workouts. Becoming aware of what level of physical exertion your body can attain while still remaining healthy is the foundation of a safe, effective workout program.
Many cases of rhabdomyolysis occur in the realm of fitness, but there are other causes that can increase the chances of experiencing the condition. Anytime a muscle breaks down the contents of that tissue can break apart and enter the bloodstream. Traumatic injuries from auto accidents, electrical shock, lightning strike or severe third-degree burns can cause rhabdomyolysis. Even extremely rare but still possible instances such as a snake’s or insect’s venom injected into the muscle tissue by a bite can begin the process of muscle tissue breakdown, which then would lead to rhabdomyolysis. In some cases, even high doses of medications (such as anti-psychotics) can create the onset of the condition.
One of the most common factors contributing to rhabdomyolysis is the effect that heat exhaustion and heat stroke can have on the body. Along with a very high body temperature comes a very high-risk of rhabdomyolysis, especially when physical exertion is beyond the reasonable level. This can occur when an individual has a very physically-demanding job outdoors in the hotter months of the year. Lawn care professionals, construction workers and postal workers are prime examples of being at a high-risk of rhabdomyolysis during the summer months. It is very important for anyone who works in the summer heat performing very physical work to drink plenty of fluids at all times and be very aware of the warning signs of rhabdomyolysis.
Pushing the body to its limits is a very positive, encouraging mindset for all fitness enthusiasts. Exercise is based on the principle that the muscles are pushed to the point where microscopic fibers are broken down and then proceed to heal properly to increase muscle tone. This is how body composition changes. With the breakdown and repairing of muscle tissue, the body becomes stronger and more metabolic. As muscle mass increases, the body feasts on calories at a higher rate making the metabolism stronger and more efficient.
Moderate muscle breakdown is appropriate in a fitness routine, but excessive muscle breakdown is not only counter-productive but extremely dangerous as well. Fitness should enhance a person’s health and well-being just as working out should be a safe outlet for everyone to release stress and tension, without the fear of any damage to the body. If the warning signs of rhabdomyolysis appear, please seek medical attention immediately and cease all physical activity. Although the condition is rare, it is still a high possibility for certain individuals who are at-risk.
Spring is approaching and more and more individuals are amping up their workouts to get in shape for summer. While pushing your workouts to the next level this spring, be aware of what your body can handle. Set realistic goals for yourself to gradually build up to a higher level of intensity. If it helps to seek the counsel of a fitness professional, then by all means utilize every resource available to ensure a safe and fun workout program this spring and summer. Take great care of your body and it will take great care of you. It is your temple and the only place you will ever live.