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Overexercising and Rhabdomyolysis Symptoms: Is There a Connection?

Physical overexertion is a notable trigger of rhabdomyolysis symptoms. But did you know that the condition can also be a result of several health conditions?

Group of women performing a routine together on spinning bikes. 

In February 2021, a 24-year-old Singaporean woman was reported to have rhabdomyolysis symptoms three days after attending her first spin class. She had just come out of a six-month exercise hiatus.

Although her participation in the exercise appeared to be the condition’s main cause, it can be argued that she was physically deconditioned beforehand. As a result, she overexerted herself and developed rhabdomyolysis.

Without prompt treatment, rhabdomyolysis – a condition that sees protein and electrolytes from damaged muscle tissue being released into the blood – can cause kidney failure or be fatal. 

Read on to learn more about how the condition transpires, and the steps a person can take to address symptoms promptly.

What are Some Possible Reasons Behind Rhabdomyolysis Symptoms? 

Two firefighters working together to put out a fire outdoors.
The walls of embers firefighters are exposed to put them at risk of developing rhabdomyolysis symptoms. 

Be mindful that anyone can develop the condition, but specific groups of people are more liable than most. These include athletes, firefighters, first responders, military service members, and police officers.

Muscle overuse due to intense training sessions and the demands of fitness tests make athletes prone to rhabdomyolysis. Frequent exposure to high-temperature environments and the use of heat-trapping protective equipment can lead to the same outcome.

In addition, you may be at risk of rhabdomyolysis if you: 

  • Have been diagnosed with different infections: flu, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), salmonella, staph, strep throat, or the Epstein-Barr virus 
  • Have been diagnosed with conditions like diabetes, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell disease, and thyroid disorders 
  • Drink too many alcohol, caffeine, or stimulant-containing beverages 
  • Use illegal substances, such as cocaine and methamphetamine 
  • Use certain types of over-the-counter and prescription medications: antibiotics, antidepressants, statins, and cold and allergy medicines 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the condition is associated with imbalances in the Kidney and Liver organ systems. This is because the former governs the bones, while the latter governs the ligaments and tendons.

“If there’s insufficient Liver blood, a person’s muscles will not be adequately nourished. On the contrary, a lack of Kidney qi (vital life force) will impair
the organ system’s ability to nourish blood, making the bones vulnerable to damage.”   

Eu Yan Sang Physician Yoong Zi Yi

What Can You Do to Address Rhabdomyolysis Symptoms? 

It’s impossible to do anything to prevent a traumatic injury from provoking the condition’s onset. There are steps you can take to avoid rhabdomyolysis due to other factors, such as: 

  • Staying hydrated 
  • Avoiding alcohol and illegal substances 
  • Resting in the shade if the weather becomes unbearably hot 
  • Increasing the intensity of a new exercise programme gradually 
  • Discussing the use of medications that put you at risk of the condition 

TCM also believes that if you intend to start exercising after a long time, do light and not heavy workouts from the get-go.

A group of men and women doing yoga stretches.
To avoid overexertion, stick to light workouts like yoga if you’re starting to exercise.

Intravenous administration of electrolytes and fluids 

During a hospital stay, you may receive electrolytes and fluids intravenously to flush toxins out of your system.

Dialysis treatment 

If your rhabdomyolysis is severe enough to damage the kidneys, you may require dialysis treatment. The procedure involves extracting blood to clear out toxins before returning the filtered substance to the body.

Herbal remedies 

The main objective of using herbal remedies is to aid in the treatment of rhabdomyolysis provided by Western medicine. Herbs can nourish blood and the Kidney and Liver organ systems and encourage better blood circulation.

A few herbs that a person can consider using are

  • Eucommia (du zhong, 杜仲) 
  • Jujubes (da zao, 大枣) 
  • Chinese Angelica (dang gui, 当归),  
  • Longan Aril (long yan rou, 龙眼肉) 
  • Grounded pines (shen jin cao, 伸筋草) 
  • Rehmannia root (shu di huang, 熟地黄) 
  • White Peony roots (bai shao, 白芍) 
  • Sub-erect Spatholobus stem (ji xue teng, 鸡血藤) 

Acupuncture treatment

Physician Yoong recommends using acupuncture to activate points within the Kidneys, Liver and bladder meridians. Examples of these are: 

  • Gan shu (BL18, 肝俞) 
  • Shen shu (BL23, 腎俞) 
  • Qi hai shu (BL24, 气海俞) 
  • Tai xi (KI3, 太谿) 
  • Zu wu li (LR10, 足五里) 

Early treatment of rhabdomyolysis symptoms can help prevent severe outcomes like kidney failure or death. You may use alternative approaches to regulate the internal imbalances associated with the condition. But, it’ll be wise to discuss suitable treatments for your body constitution with a licensed TCM practitioner instead of self-medicating.

References

  1. Mothership. 2021. 2 S’pore women hospitalised with potentially fatal muscle breakdown after a spin class. [online] [Accessed 17 November 2022]  
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rhabdomyolysis. [online] [Accessed 17 November 2022]  
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Rhabdomyolysis. [online] [Accessed 17 November 2022]  

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