A fitness fanatic has revealed over-exercising left her ‘looking like Popeye’ and battling a life-threatening condition that caused her muscles to swell to a size 20 and EAT themselves
When mother-of-two Amelia Burns returned home from her daily session at the gym she found her arms swelling and turning to jelly – and she eventually passed out.
The bizarre swelling continued for the next two days and the 30-year-old felt that all her strength had been drained from her.
In a panicked video she sent to her friend, her arm swelled up to several times its normal size and completely dwarfed her wrist. She was also unable to lift it above her head and had went from a size 8 in clothes to a size 20
Mrs Burns, from Sandhurst in Berkshire, was eventually hospitalised and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis in September this year, a condition that can cause death and is brought on by over-exercising.
It causes muscle tissue to break down and flow into the bloodstream – which could have caused her kidneys to fail if left untreated.
Amelia Burns returned home from daily session at the gym but didn’t feel right
Her arms swelled and she felt drained and she eventually passed out
The 30-year-old, from Sandhurst, was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis
WHAT IS RHABDOMYOLYSIS?
Rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury.
It occurs from the death of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream.
This can lead to life-threatening complications such as renal (kidney) failure.
This means the kidneys cannot remove waste and concentrated urine.
In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis can even cause death.
It can be caused by extreme muscle strain, as well as a crush injury, an electrical shock injury, venom from a snake or insect bite and viral infections such as the flu, HIV, or herpes simplex virus.
Typical symptoms are: muscle pain in the shoulders, thighs, or lower back; muscle weakness or trouble moving arms and legs; and dark red or brown urine or decreased urination.
‘I couldn’t lift a water bottle’
After returning home from a workout, Mrs Burns was unable to even lift a water bottle or look after her children Aubrey, six, and Elodie, three.
She has since begun to make a recovery but workouts, particularly like the one that triggered her condition, are completely ruled out.
The receptionist said: ‘I have never felt so bad in my life. At its worst a water bottle felt like the heaviest thing I have every tried to lift. I just couldn’t do it.
‘It was completely terrifying how I lost all my strength and I was completely exhausted. I had absolutely no energy.
‘My arms swelled to at least three times their normal size, from my forearm right past my elbow. I looked like Popeye.
‘I was having to wear size 20 jumpers just to get them over my arms. I’m normally a size eight.
‘I was really worried about my kids because I couldn’t do anything for them. I couldn’t lift my three-year-old up to give her cuddle.’
The potentially life-threatening condition can be caused by over-exercising
Heavy weight lifting
Ms Burns says the episode was a shock because she had been going to the gym regularly since her second daughter was born three years ago so she felt ‘really fit’.
‘It’s a complete shock for something like this to happen to me, and I’m now just going to have to start building my fitness slowly all over again,’ she said.
‘But it’s several months down the line now and I still don’t have the energy I used to. It’s really scary.’
It was in September that Mrs Burns went for one of her regular workouts. A Bodycoach graduate, she was using one of the exercises she was taught to work on her tricep muscles.
Lifting weights from behind her head in an exercise known as skull crushers, she repeated the movement with increasingly heavy weights through sets of 50 repetitions down to 10.
For the final 10 reps, she decided to push to the heaviest weight she could.
She felt exhausted leaving the gym but thought nothing of it. It was only when she sat down to dinner later that she realised something was wrong and asked her IT worker husband Lex, 28, to take a look.
It causes muscle tissue to break down and flow into the bloodstream – which could have caused her kidneys to fail if left untreated
Mrs Burns says that after returning home following exercising, she was unable to even lift a water bottle
Mrs Burns said: ‘It was not an extraordinary workout. I pushed myself a little harder with the weight at the end, but it was not as thought I was doing it for the first time.
‘I felt really drained when I left the gym but that’s nothing unusual after a workout.
‘I got home and made tea for my family but when I sat down to eat my elbow felt really squishy.
‘I asked my husband to take a look and he said it was swollen. He carried on looking after Aubrey and Elodie as I just got worse and worse.
‘Everything happened in really slow motion. I couldn’t lift my arms and blackness started to cloud the edge of my vision. I could see my daughter and husband talking but I couldn’t hear a word they were saying.
‘I didn’t want my daughter to see me ill so I told Lex to get her out of the room. I thought I had said it loud and clear, but apparently I only whispered it.
‘Eventually I did pass out and Lex had to take me outside to revive me. I went straight to bed thinking I could sleep it off.’
‘I’m normally healthy’
However, over the next couple of days Mrs Burns’ symptoms got worse and her arms continued to swell.
She was sleeping for several hours in the day and her husband became so concerned by her condition that he raced her to hospital.
As she was so fit, doctors took several hours to confirm the diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis, when blood tests revealed her creatine levels were nine times higher than they should have been, risking damage to her internal organs.
The mother-of two says the episode was a shock because she had been going to the gym regularly since her second daughter was born three years ago so she felt ‘really fit’
Typical symptoms are: muscle pain in the shoulders, thighs, or lower back and muscle weakness or trouble moving arms and legs
Mrs Burns is now back home and continuing her recovery from the condition
Mrs Burns said: ‘Lex really wasn’t happy with how I looked and how drained I was, so he took me to hospital.
‘Because I don’t take supplements and I’m healthy, for a while they weren’t sure what was wrong with me.
‘I saw a total of eight doctors and none of them hid their surprise from me. They were all shocked.
‘It was scary lying in hospital not knowing what was happening, but when they confirmed the diagnosis I was just as worried as there was a chance my arms would not have gone back down again.’
Mrs Burns is now back home and continuing her recovery from the condition, but still feels more tired than she used to.
She has also been left to slowly build her fitness back up again.
She said: ‘It can be quite frustrating. I don’t have the energy I used to have.
‘I can’t do hard workouts at the moment and I’m not allowed to lift any weights. I have to build that up very slowly.
‘But there is no way I’ll be doing skull crushers like that again.’