Spin Class Injuries: When Too Much Exercise Can Be Dangerous

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Embarking on a fitness journey is an exhilarating pursuit, and for many, spin classes have become a cornerstone of their workout routine. However, the pulsating beats and intense cadence of these sessions may occasionally leave enthusiasts grappling with injuries and post-workout discomfort. Let’s explore common spin class injuries, and in particular, rhabdomyolysis. 


Why a simple gym class is so dangerous? 

Participating in a gym class may pose risks to both novice and seasoned athletes. High-intensity workouts, such as spin classes, often overload muscles and joints, leading to a higher risk of injuries. 

This is contributed by different factors, including:  

  • Inadequate warm-up or cool-down exercises before and after the class 
  • Insufficient preparation of the athlete (especially in less experienced participants) 
  • Dehydration, stress and exhaustion of the athlete 
  • Medications taken by the athlete prior to the session 
  • Unfamiliarity with the pace of the class 

Moreover, the repetitive nature of certain movements may lead to overuse injuries. Cyclists might experience issues such as knee pain or IT band syndrome due to the prolonged and repetitive motion involved in spinning. 

All of these factors predispose the participant to one of the most dreaded complications in the sports: Rhabdomyolysis 

What is rhabdomyolysis? 

Rhabdomyolysis is a condition where muscle tissue breaks down from extreme exertion, releasing a protein called myoglobin into the bloodstream. Coupled with dehydration, high amounts of myoglobin lead to severe kidney damage, and in some cases, even kidney failure. The condition also causes excruciating pain in the affected muscle groups, often presenting as thigh and back pain. 

In Singapore, the popularity of spin cycling has led to rise in young patients suffering from rhabdomyolysis, requiring urgent treatment in hospitals. There is a growing awareness of this condition, but knowing how to detect and prevent it remains unclear to many 


Symptoms to Watch For 

Symptoms include  

  • Severe muscle pain and weakness 
  • Dark or reddish-brown urine 
  • in extreme cases, little to no urine output over an entire day 

If you experience these symptoms, it’s vital to seek medical attention promptly. 


What’s the difference between regular muscle soreness and rhabdomyolysis? 

Distinguishing between the soreness that follows a vigorous workout and the potentially serious symptoms of rhabdomyolysis may be challenging, but there are certain characteristics that help differentiate them.  

Acute muscle soreness is the burning ache felt during the exercise itself. This is entirely natural as part of intense activity and is what many athletes strive for to tell them they are having a good workout. 

The familiar pain felt AFTER exercise is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). It typically occurs 24 to 48 hours after intense or unfamiliar exercise. DOMS is a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibres during the workout, leading to inflammation and discomfort as the muscles repair and adapt. While DOMS is a natural part of the muscle-strengthening process, its intensity can vary, and individuals may experience stiffness, tenderness, or reduced range of motion. Such soreness improves over time, with expected recovery in 48 – 72 hours from onset. 

However, rhabdomyolysis presents with intense, widespread pain that may worsen over time. This condition often manifests within a few hours to a couple of days after engaging in intense physical activity, and the pain can affect multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Rhabdomyolysis also involves additional alarming symptoms. Dark tea-colored urine is indicative of myoglobin release from damaged muscles, which is a distinctive sign of rhabdomyolysis. Other associated symptoms include fatigue, weakness, nausea, and, in severe cases, confusion.  

Monitoring urine colour, staying hydrated, and paying attention to the intensity, onset, and duration of pain are essential in distinguishing between these conditions. If there is any uncertainty, seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for accurate diagnosis and intervention. 


Preventing Rhabdomyolysis in Your Spin Class 

Prevention is key when it comes to rhabdomyolysis, and incorporating certain practices into your spin routine can help minimize the risk.  

1) Stay hydrated with adequate water intake before, during and after the class supports muscle function and helps flush out byproducts of intense exercise.  

2) Gradual progression is essential. Avoid pushing yourself to extremes too quickly; instead, progressively increase the intensity of your workouts over time. This allows your body to adapt to ever-increasing amounts of strain and not get overloaded 

3) Be well rested for your class. If you have been sleeping poorly or were recently ill, intense exercise will place further strain on a recovering body. This leads to even greater risk of severe harm 

4) Avoid intense exercise if you are currently on medications, like antihistamines for the flu, or certain diabetic or blood pressure medications that increase urination. 


Mind your Heart: Cardiovascular Risk in Spin Class 

Participants with underlying cardiovascular risk factors, like high blood pressure and obesity, often overlook how these conditions contribute to their exercise risk. While exercise is always recommended for people with chronic disease, the level of exercise that is safe and appropriate would vary from person to person. 

Prior to starting high-intensity activities like spinning, it is advised that novice participants who lead sedentary lifestyles, or who have 1 or more cardiovascular risk factors, speak to a qualified exercise professional (QEP) to determine their suitability for such exercises. QEPs include physiotherapists and doctors trained in sports medicine. 

This reduces the risk of cardiovascular complications arising in such athletes, including uncontrolled hypertension or cardiac rhythm abnormalities, and the rare but dreaded Sudden Cardiac Death. 


Striking a Balance: Muscle Strains and Joint Stress 

 As enthusiasts pedal through the dynamic and rhythmic sequences, it is easy to overlook all the potential sources for joint injury. Awkward positioning during a sprint or suboptimal posture on the saddle can amplify the stress on muscles and joints. This leads to sprains and strains, and over time can lead to chronic joint or ligament injuries. Here, we discuss strategic approaches to strike a balance, ensuring the experience of the spin workout doesn’t compromise the well-being of our joints. 



Mindful Form and Technique 

Cultivating a mindful form and technique is important in reducing joint stress. This involves ensuring a proper bike setup, including saddle height and handlebar alignment. Participants should focus on maintaining a neutral spine, which simply means linear alignment of neck, shoulders, back and hips in all activities. It is important to avoid excessive leaning or hunching, which can distribute stress unevenly across joints. This prevents development of shoulder, back or knee strains from exercise. 


Proper Warm-Up and Cool-Down Routines 

Proper warm-up and cool-down routines play a pivotal role in preparing joints for the demands of spinning and aiding in their recovery post-workout. Incorporating dynamic stretches and joint mobility exercises during the warm-up primes the joints for action, reducing the likelihood of strain. A dedicated cool-down session, including static stretches, helps relax muscles and joints, promoting flexibility and minimizing post-exercise stiffness. 


Optimal Bike Setup 

An often-overlooked aspect contributing to joint stress is the setup of the spin bike. Ensuring an optimal bike setup tailored to individual body mechanics is crucial. This includes adjusting saddle height, handlebar position, and pedal alignment. An ergonomically sound setup not only enhances overall comfort during the workout but also plays a pivotal role in minimising joint strain. 



Spin classes are a great way to get a fun and comprehensive workout, and we hope this article serves as a guide to your fitness journey. Always remember to pace yourself and practice good technique to get the most out of your workout. Stay active and healthy! 


DR+ Medical & Paincare Alexandra 

Led by Dr Caleb Seet Yu Shiang, DR+ Medical & Paincare Alexandra Clinic is a GP clinic that provides a full suite of family medicine services, medical examinations (work permits/insurance/student pass), minor surgical procedures, health screenings & corporate healthcare. Trained by Singapore Paincare Academy, Dr Seet treats a wide variety of chronic pain conditions through the use of Minimally Invasive Procedures (MIPs) to patients, as an alternative to open surgery. In addition, Dr Seet is also trained in Sports Medicine and manages various pain-related conditions and sports injuries.

Address: 321 Alexandra Road #01-05 Alexandra Central Mall Singapore 159971 

Contact number: +65 6322 7350