Healthy Lifestyle

Rare Muscle Damage Syndrome Rhabdo Is Dangerous - and Preventable

Published: Sept. 19, 2019

However, there’s another workout-related problem that’s been making headlines. Rhabdomyolysis, also known as rhabdo, is rare but potentially deadly. It’s been reported among football players, people engaging in military-style and other intense workout regimens, and even teenagers competing in a 1,000-squat challenge.


What is rhabdo?  

Rhabdo, a syndrome that involves muscle injury and breakdown, can occur with any intense exercise if it involves the repetitive motion of a muscle or new movement. Other causes include trauma, drug use and use of statins.

Rhabdo results from the death of muscle fibers and the release of their contents into the bloodstream. There’s the potential for kidney damage, kidney failure and, in rare cases, death. But prompt treatment usually leads to a full recovery.

The syndrome has several symptoms, but not all are always present. They are:

  • Muscle pain and swelling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dark urine or less urination

Factors that can increase the chance of having rhabdo are: 

  • Exercise intensity
  • A person’s conditioning
  • Hydration
  • Body temperature


Work out smarter, not harder

All that said, concerns about rhabdo shouldn’t scare you away from exercising. For the average person, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s when exercise is taken to the extreme that people can get hurt.

If you’re concerned about rhabdo, focus on what you can do to prevent it. Talk to your doctor before beginning a rigorous workout program. Then remember to listen to your body, ease yourself into more challenging exercises and give yourself the recovery time you need.

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About the Author

Blake Jessen, PT, MPT, Cert. MDT, is a physical therapist at Methodist Physicians Clinic.

“I believe we should do our best to get patients better in as few visits as possible,” he said. “We should also teach patients to take care of themselves so they don’t need care in the future.”

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