I don't know if you've heard of rhabdomyolysis but it's a no joke injury that happened to me. Mine is called exertional rhabdo as it was induced by an intense workout. When you push your muscles too hard, it can cause your muscle fibers to basically die... which releases protein (myoglobin) into your blood stream. Your kidneys cannot handle this overload so the worst that can happen with this condition is renal failure. Thankfully, my kidneys weren't affected at all, even with my creatine kinase (CK) level at 34,000 (normal range is anywhere from 22-198).
After doing some research, I think a couple of things contributed to me getting rhabdo. One, I think I may have been a little dehydrated. Rhabdo loves dehydrated muscles. Two, mine happened from a CrossFit bootcamp class (third time I've tried CrossFit - also, not saying CrossFit is bad, please don't misunderstand. I'm sharing my story and what happened to me in detail.). The workout was completely doable for me as I've had this kind of a workout before, but I think it was the way it was structured. We did 35 reps of many exercises but they were in "chipper" style - I didn't know what that meant either but it's when you complete all 35 reps before moving onto the next exercise. I've only experienced doing workouts at CrossFit (the other two times) where you break up the reps into doable chunks and coming back to finish the exercises as many times as necessary to complete the reps. Anyway, I think the two exercises that did me in were the pull-ups and push-ups. All in all, I did two rounds of everything. I thought I was listening to my body but when you love the adrenaline of a good, go-all-out kind of a workout like me, sometimes too much of a good thing can be... well, too much.
I was hospitalized for 5 days where the only treatment was IV fluids being pumped into me. My numbers went down steadily. I was released with a promise to my hospital doc that I would follow up with my primary doc. I've been out of the hospital two weeks and one day now and I see my primary once a week to get my blood work done. Just yesterday, my CK came back at 120! Yippee!!
Thursday was my first day back in the gym. I still cannot use my upper body as my doc wants to make sure my muscles heal completely. I'm just grateful that I get to move at all! It was so awesome being back in my basement gym, my sanctuary.
I wanted to share this story because some of you may be searching the internet for your weird swollen arm or leg at the moment. Mine started out as sore arms where I couldn't straighten them all the way. I thought, "Oh, it must have been a good workout." The workout was on a Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, I tried to do a light workout for my upper body to loosen it up and just focused on spin and legs. By Friday, I had full ROM but that's when I noticed the swelling. It took almost 3 days for the swelling to show up on me. I still didn't think it was rhabdo (I didn't get the dark urine that is one of the symptoms of rhabdo) so I iced it and took some Advil. By Sunday, the swelling moved down below my elbow (sooooo not right) and that's when I went to the ER.
If you go to ER (which is a great idea), let them know that you want your CK level checked. Be persistent! My ER doctor and nurse didn't believe me. They said they've only seen rhabdo in the elderly (when they fall and stay in that position for hours) and trauma victims. Well, to their surprise, I diagnosed myself correctly and they were shocked at my CK number.
Rhabdo is rare... but I really believe that with intense workouts, plus the mentality of pushing harder these days, it may not be as rare as it used to be. While I was in the hospital the first night, someone reached out to me from his hospital bed having just been admitted with a CK level of 44,000. Then I got a text from an old friend who saw a guy get rhabdo from a Murph workout at CrossFit. Then on Facebook, I read someone got it from spinning. You can get it from almost any exercise you do... if you are pushing too hard, a bit dehydrated... things just lined up for me perfectly to create a perfect storm.
If you are like me and love to workout, push a little hard (or a lot!), please keep this in the back of your mind. Listen to your body and step back if your body says no. And please hydrate. Like all the time!
I hope and pray that my story can help anyone who is experiencing rhabdo symptoms. When in doubt, go to the ER!!
CK downward trend:
Admitted 1/22/2017 - 34,000
1/23 - 24,000
1/24 - 12,000
1/25 - 9,000 (arm still swollen and now my entire body swollen from so much IV fluids)
1/26 - 5,128
1/27 - 2,692 (discharged!)
1/30 - 671
1/31 - (arm finally normal! Bye bye swelling!)
2/7 - 120
(Now that I've started working out, I will keep a close eye on my numbers. If it goes up, I won't increase intensity. If number holds steady or goes lower, I will increase intensity by 20-30%)