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Unlocking the Fitness Code: Beware of Rhabdomyolysis before your gym adventure gets blotched

A viral TikTok video, as shared by @brynnmapes, indicated that she got rhabdomyolysis by pushing herself too hard in the gym. The video received much attention, with about 15.4K messages and 82.2k shares at the time of this article’s composition. 

Comments suggest alarm and concern over the condition, as seen in the screenshots below.

Image: Screenshots of viewer concerns

The post, which has since been removed, remains relevant as many people have developed an interest in weightlifting, bodybuilding, and the gym. 

This interest is continually growing among the youth, especially those who want to lose weight or bulk up for health or lifestyle purposes. With the rising interest in physical fitness worldwide, and in Ghana specifically, it is critical to create awareness about this condition.

What is Rhabdomyolysis?

According to an article by Clevelandclinic.org, Rhabdomyolysis, pronounced (“rab-doe-my-ah-luh-suhs”) is a life-threatening condition that can happen after a muscle injury or excessive workout without rest. 

Research on the condition by Micheal Stanley and others indicates that the condition “is a state of muscle injury that can lead to several forms of systemic insult, the most important being acute kidney injury, electrolyte imbalance, and disseminated intravascular coagulation. The systemic complications associated with rhabdomyolysis result from the leakage of muscle intracellular components into the bloodstream.”

In other words, it results in protein (myoglobin) leakage from the muscle into the bloodstream. The injury caused as a result of this can lead to the death of the muscle. The toxic component of your dead muscle can enter your circulation system and kidneys. This can lead to kidney damage and many other complications.

DUBAWA spoke to Dr Daniel Akorlor, a medical doctor at Cape Coast Government Hospital in the central region of Ghana), who stated that rhabdomyolysis symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms of the condition include dehydration, decreased urination, muscle swelling, dark or tea-coloured or brown urine,  nausea, and loss of consciousness. 

According to Dr Akorlor, in some cases, people may not even experience symptoms.

Image:  Pictorial breakdown of how rhabdomyolysis works Source: emDOCS.net

Causes of Rhabdomyolysis

Some of the causes of Rhabdomyolysis include:

  1. Injury or trauma.
  2. Severe dehydration.
  3. Some medications (antipsychotic, antidepressant, antiviral, and Statin medications).
  4. High-intensity exercise.

Prevention

According to Cleveland Clinic, it may be impossible to prevent all causes of rhabdomyolysis, but you can reduce your risk of developing exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis by:

  1. Start an exercise program slowly, and listen to your body. Stop and rest if you feel very sore or tired during a workout. Don’t push yourself beyond safe limits.
  2. Stay hydrated and avoid getting overheated. Take breaks in the shade if you’re physically active in the heat.
  3. Avoid addictive substances like alcohol and drugs.
  4. Talk to your healthcare provider about any medications you’re taking that may increase your risk of developing rhabdomyolysis.

Conclusion

Rhabdomyolysis is a life-threatening condition that can occur as a result of indulging in strenuous exercise in the gym or anywhere else. Awareness of the condition is important, as is learning to avoid overexertion during physical activities. 

This report was produced under the DUBAWA Non-urban Journalists Mentorship project aimed at promoting a culture of truth and verification in non-urban newsrooms in Ghana with support from the US Embassy in Ghana.

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