Rhabdo, also known as rhabdomyolysis, is a topic I've devoted over 10 years of my life investigating. Over the years, I've lectured to thousands of people – even NASA – spoken to sufferers in and out of the hospital and I'm also the author of the first book on this topic too. While the side effects from this condition can be quite serious, one question I've been asked several times is whether or not someone can have a “mild case” of rhabdo. Is it possible? If you are wondering if you have a mild case or not, let's see if I can help answer your question.
Additional Rhabdo Reviews
- Spinning and rhabdomyolysis
- Interview: She got rhabdo from spinning class
- 5 reasons rhabdo occurs in the gym
- Fitness trainers causing rhabdo
- Is it Rhabdo or Muscle Soreness?
- Can You Die From Rhabdo?
- Do Creatine supplements cause rhabdomyolysis
- Non-typical symptoms of rhabdomyolysis
- My Interview on the GymWitts Podcast
- Podcast: Rhabdo Genetic Traits
- Podcast: Rhabdo Myths Exposed
- Arrested With Rhabdo (podcast)
What Is Rhabdomyolysis?
Rhabdomyolysis (rab-doe-my-oh-lie-sis) refers to skeletal muscle fiber death. When the muscles die, the contents inside of those muscle cells get into the bloodstream. Because some of the things in muscle cells should not be present in the blood in high concentrations, their presence can lead to some very serious outcomes just a few of which can include:
- Heart rhythm changes (ex: skipping beats/heart attack)
- Intense muscle pain
- Swelling of the muscles
- Loss of feeling in body limbs
- Dark-colored urine
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
As you may be aware some of these side effects are serious and require medical attention. Sometimes dialysis and even surgery are required.
Who Asks If They Have A Mild Case Of Rhabdo?
The people who have asked me this question in the past often to fall into the following categories:
- Those wondering if they have rhabdo or just muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Those who think they have the condition and wondering if they need to go to the hospital
Is It Rhabdo Or Muscle Soreness?
Both rhabdo and delayed muscle soreness (DOMS) share in common the fact that both usually follow doing exercise or activities you are not used to doing. If you do enough unfamiliar activities, it increases the risk of both conditions. It's also important to know that the activity/exercise does not have to be hard-core either.
When someone tells me they think they have rhabdo, the first question I ask them is “do your muscles hurt when you are not moving?” Because regular muscle soreness (DOMS) doesn't hurt until you move, if you do have muscle pain when stationary, that is a sign it's not muscle soreness.
It might be something more serious than DOMS.
The pain often starts relatively soon after exercise stops and gets worse as the hours go by. How bad can the pain get? One women I know once told me her pain was worse than giving birth to 3 kids!
Another difference between the two conditions is that normal delayed muscle soreness often shows up 24-48 hours after exercise. Rhabdomyolysis pain often -but not always -pops up quicker, sometimes within an hour or so after exercise stops.
So, if you do have muscle pain when you are not moving – and the pain started pretty quickly after exercise -that could be a sign it's not normal , delayed muscle soreness that we've all experienced from time to time.
Here's my video review on DOMS vs. rhabdomyolysis:
The Myth of Dark Colored Urine
By now, many people have heard about dark-colored urine is a sign of this condition. It's often described as looking reddish-brown, like ice tea or cola-colored. The dark color is the result of a component of your muscles (called myoglobin) being filtered through the kidneys. In reality, there is a spectrum of colors the urine can look. In other words, it doesn't have to look very dark.
But more than this, it's important to know that many people do NOT get dark-colored urine. It's possible to have rhabdo -and have a bad case of it – and have perfectly normal looking pee.
Trivia: if your urine has turned to a darker color, it means you've lost at least 3.5 oz (100g) of muscle.
I need to bring this up because dark-colored urine has been over-hyped on the internet and TV shows. I'd agree that if your urine does look dark, that's not a good sign; but if it's not dark-colored, that doesn't mean you're in the clear either.
Bottom line: Don't rely on the color of your pee when determining if you have rhabdo or not.
Video: The Biggest Rhabdo Myths
Here's a video I created to dispel the 5 biggest rhabdo myths
Rhabdo: Can It Really Be Mild?
If we remember that rhabdomyolysis literally means muscle fiber death, I don't know if I would call any case “mild.” That said, if you've previously had many of the symptoms described above but just bit the bullet, dealt with the pain and other issues, and never went to the hospital, then I guess one way of looking at is to say you had a mild case.
Personally, I'd say you just got lucky.
To be honest, I don't like calling any case of this serious medical condition mild. My fear is that a person who thinks they have rhabdo, jumps on the web to do research, finds one of those so-called experts, and talks themselves into thinking their case isn't serious. The only way to know for sure how bad your case might be is to go to the hospital and get checked out.
Any Questions or Comments?