Rhabdomyolysis is a serious medical disorder that I feel people don't take seriously. I also believe the personal stories of those dealing with rhabdo do not get enough attention. I want their voices to be heard. To help you understand how bad rhabdo can be, I interviewed Kayla Gallegos, a healthy young woman who developed rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo) after taking her first indoor cycling class. It's my hope her words help others who are dealing with rhabdo.
Also See These Reports
- Top 6 Rhabdo Myths Revealed
- Interview: Rhabdo from Crossfit and other activities
- Interview: Rhabdo with non-typical symptoms
- Interview: Rhabdo from spinning class
- Rhabdo In Fitness Centers: 5 Reasons It Happens
- Video Review: Rhabdo In The Gym
- Rhabdomyolysis Occurring In Spinning Class
- Rhabdomyolysis and Personal Trainers
- Can You Die From Rhabdo?
- Is It Rhabdo or Muscle Soreness?
- Do You Have a Mild Case of Rhabdo?
- Do Creatine Supplements Cause Rhabdo?
- Interview: Rhabdo with non-typical side effects
- My Interview on The GymWits Podcast
- My Interview on SuperHuman Radio
How Did You Get Rhabdo?
July 26th 2018, I had taken my first cycling class thinking I would be able to accomplish and finish the class no problem because I had been attending a normal gym and do workouts there.
Never have I had issues other than the normal average soreness.
During the 45 minute workout I was clipped into those pedals and was following all instructions the instructor was giving. Towards the end of class, I had stood up on the pedals and was cycling as fast as I could to have a solid finish and record that was being recorded right in front of us on a big screen.
But I noticed that my legs wouldn’t allow me to stand or pedal anymore. I literally would collapse every time I tried to stand up.
I said to my friend on the bike next to me, “this is really strange; why can’t I stand anymore!?”
The class had ended and I was able to unclip and walk out just fine with only MILD leg soreness. The next day, I worked all day which requires me to be on my feet. I knew something was insanely wrong when I couldn’t walk my normal pace or stand for very long.
My legs were burning every time I would step, sit down, bend my legs in squat position or anything like that.
It was the worst pain I have ever felt.
By the third day, I couldn’t fit into my jeans anymore. I felt a burning sensation on both thighs. I couldn’t lift my leg to even shower, or get into bed without someone lifting my legs and me pulling myself up.
I knew something was wrong, very wrong.
That evening I finally got the courage to use the restroom and noticed my urine was Dr. Pepper color. At that point, I didn’t even care. I didn’t care what could have killed me, nothing.
All I knew is that I wanted to die from the severe pain I was experiencing. My mom happened to be with me at the time and when I described my urine color she said “oh ya! We’re going to the E.R NOW!!”
I arrived at the hospital and no longer than two minutes I was hooked up to a Saline IV and Morphine for pain. And from then on, I was not allowed to be released for 7 days until my CK level was in the “normal range”.
Was This Your First Spinning Class?
How Long Did It For The Pain To Occur?
The next day is when I really felt the pain.
Rate Your Rhabdomyolysis Pain On A 0-10 Scale
Easily a 10 plus.
What Made The Rhabdo Pain Worse
Well, there was no way I was stepping foot into a gym again that’s for sure until I knew what the problem was.
- Working on my feet all day didn’t help.
- Lifting my leg to shower or even get into bed.
Did You Have Leg Swelling?
Yes! I noticed the swelling when I couldn’t fit into my jeans as I normally do.
Six months later and I’m still experiencing swelling and pain.
What Happened At The Hospital?
When I first arrived I gave all my vitals and temperature. My temperature was elevated and I was freezing with the worst chills I’ve ever had! I was seen right away by an E.R doctor.
I then had to give a urine sample and had blood taken. Within 5 minutes, the doctor came in and explained that I have a “severe case of rhabdomyolysis”.
Of course, I had no idea what that was.
He then stated that “I was the second patient he’s seen in 25 years of his career with the highest CK level”. He just wanted me as comfortable as possible.
What Were Your CK Levels?
Did The Doctor Give Specific Guidelines When You Went Home?
Not too many guidelines. Just normal stuff, like rest, ice as much as possible and keep legs elevated.
Did You Tell Your Primary Doctor You Got Rhabdo?
I followed up with my primary physician about three weeks after the accident. He as well had no knowledge on rhabdomyolysis.
He took me out of work for about three months and demanded disability.
I have gotten an MRI, had blood drawn, seen a physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon, and rheumatologist. I still have no answers as to when I’ll make a full recovery.
Did You Tell The Gym What Happened?
I did call the spinning studio about two weeks later. No one had knowledge of rhabdomyolysis whatsoever.
There was no empathy given. No questions asked, nothing!
This event happened at a local cycling studio called CycleBar in CA.
How Long Did Your Rhabdo Pain Last?
The severity of the pain lasted about one-two weeks. But I have had mild lingering pain ever since.
Do you Have Rhabdo Side Effects Today?
I’m doing OK considering. I still have pain in the thigh area on both legs. I still have swelling which causes my legs to feel a burning sensation.
- I have noticed I’m not as flexible and limber as I used to be.
- I can’t perform a squat position without my legs feeling as if they’ve given out.
- I do notice when I don’t have a certain amount of fluids a day, I have more discomfort and swelling.
I've also noticed when I drink alcohol -which is very rarely – my legs are more swollen and hurt more than when I don't
Any Advice For Those About To Take A Spinning Class?
My best advice is to be physically and mentally prepared for the class. Yes, it may be a short class but A LOT of damage can happen in that short time. Definitely be hydrated!
If your body gives you any sort of sign or any weakness PLEASE LISTEN and stop.
Any Advice For Those Who Have Rhabdo Right Now?
Listen to your body!! Don’t push yourself if you’re weak, tired, and feel like collapsing. It’s OK to fail.
Thank you for the information. My 20 year old daughter today came out of the hospital due to Rhabdo. She is 100lb, 5’2” girl, that exercises maybe once a week on a treadmill. Never used alcohol, smoked or taken any supplements. Very health conscious young lady.
She joined her friend last week for a class in soul cycling. After 30 minutes of exercise she felt nauseous and vomited. The next day she had soreness in both of her thighs. At night of the second day she couldn’t even sleep from the pain. Day three in the morning she had a dark urine and we rushed to ER.
She was hooked to IV fluids and tests were done. The CPK level was at 36000. She was admitted in the hospital and diagnosed with Rhabdo. Day two in the hospital the CPK level dropped to 24000, and day three went back up to 48000, and then 65000.
Besides the CPK levels, her liver enzymes the ALT and AST were high. After taking lots of IV fluids the CPK levels went down to 5000, as well as the liver enzymes went drastically down.
She got checked by the Neurologist, Rheumatologist, Gastroenterologist, Nephrologist. She got discharged from the hospital on the eighth day after being admitted. Now she has to follow up with rheumatologist.
It is sad that the trainers are not well informed and don’t advise the beginners to go slowly or limit the intensity of the exercise at the beginning. I hope our story will help for others to be cautious before they join any intensive exercise like soul cycling.
Nurten, I am SO SORRY to hear this happened to your daughter. I really appreciate you sharing this. Ive heard of others getting rhabdo from Soul Cycle. Here is my review of rhabdo caused by spinning classes too if you care to see the reports.
Rhabdomyolysis is an issue I’ve been hammering the fitness industry about for over 10 years. For whatever reason they usually dont talk about it. I dont know if Soul Cycle addresses rhabdomyolysis in their certifications. I do think things are getting better but there is still a lot of work to be done.
For what its worth, I believe all group exercise classes should be overhalled. Cycling classes should no longer be alloowed to be conducted in dark rooms where instructors cant see whats happening. All instructors should require particiaptants to complete hearlth questionnaire like the PARQ before allowing them to participate. Here’s my review on the PARQ All instructors need to educate people about rhabdo too – and learn about it themselves.
You bring up a good point many are not aware of and that is rhabdo can raise liver enzymes. Rhabdo can cause more than kidney problems.
Keep me posted on how your daughter is doing and if you have any other questions.
Thank you for the information. You are doing a great job with gathering all the information regarding Rhabdo. I did read almost all the reports you have posted and your reviews…I wish I knew about it before.
My daughter is doing better now, the CPK levels dropped to 439 (still not normal but better than 65,000), and the liver enzymes level dropped as well. She had pain in her legs few more days after she got released from the hospital, but know she walks fine. I know more now about rhabdo and I share the information with people from my circle hoping to have them be more cautious when exercising.
Thank you again for gathering and sharing all the information.
Nurten, Im SO happy to hear your daughter is getting better and walking normal again too. I hear stories from people dealing with rhabdo almost daily. It only makes me more determined to try to help others avoid getting this condition.
I had a very similar experience. It was my first spin class, 45 minutes. I used a pre-workout that dehydrated me (high levels of caffeine).
Felt sore but didn’t feel like it was off until day 2 or 3 when I could barely get my jeans on. I could barely bend my legs to walk, sit down, go to the bathroom, etc. my urine was bright red (I assumed blood).
And that’s when I went to urgent care. Was hospitalized for 4 days w/ CK at a high of 125,000. A month later my CK normalized (150).
Devin, thanks for sharing your story. Sorry to hear you got rhabdo. Glad to hear your CK levels are back down again. Have you returned to exercise again? Generally I’m not a fan of pre-workout drinks. As you said it had caffeine and sometimes they contain other stimulants too.
Did you tell the gym and/or spinning instructor you got rhabdo from the class?
I haven’t exercised yet.. still hesitant. I do light workouts at home, but have not been back to the gym. My grandmother had polymyositis and I’m scared that I am more susceptible to rhabdo because of this.. I could be jumping to conclusions, but I never want to experience that pain again.
I haven’t called the spin studio either.
Devin, I hear you and understand. Many tell me they are afraid to exercise again after getting rhabdo. I have seen some research which hints those with polymyositis may have an increased risk of rhabdo – Here’s a report: https://academic.oup.com/ndt/article/20/10/2255/1934442 – but I’m not sure how much of a risk it posses.
How do you feel after you do your light workouts at home?
This is both enlightening and awful to learn about. Thank you Kayla for sharing what happened to you. My hope is everyone sees your words and it helps them avoid getting rhabdo.
Beth, thanks for saying that. I feel the same way. Kayla is my hero for speaking up.
Kristopher Kory says
Thank you so much for this interview and info!!!
Kris, thanks for saying that. So glad it helped! 🙂
Dwayne Wimmer says
I had a client who was working out with me for a couple months, she took her first cycling class and had the same thing happen. She was new to exercise so I was slowly increasing the intensity over time, she was doing well. She took the cycling class the day before a session with me.
When she came in she said she was a little sore from the cycling class but when she tried to work against any resistance she was in a lot of pain and was very weak.
She went to the hospital the next day and was admitted for a week. Needless to say, this has turned her off of exercise and has not been back.
Dwayne, so sorry to hear this story. I’ve heard from a lot of people who have developed rhabdo from cycling classes. That’s a reason I wanted to post this interview. What you said reinforces what I call “the psychology of rhabdo” where people become traumatized from it and afraid to exercise again. The important thing rhabdo this doesn’t have to occur. Knowledge is the best defense against rhabdo.
My hope is every group exercise class instructor reads this and learns about rhabdo.