Doctors Say Oil Injections Lead to Painful Cysts
March 1, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Friends at the gym shouldn't let friends at the
gym give bodybuilding advice, experts say. Athletes and bodybuilders should
heed the advice of health care and sports medicine professionals, rather than
that of their buddies at the gym. That's because listening to friends is how
they learn about injecting oils and steroids into their muscles in order to
look more muscular.
And injecting oil into muscles is not such a good idea, according to German
researchers who've published an article in the Journal of the American
Academy of Dermatology. They conclude that bodybuilders who inject plant
and mineral oils to enhance their appearance can develop painful cysts.
Unfortunately for those looking for a quick fitness fix, weight training is the
only safe way to increase muscle size and strength, sports medicine specialists
In the case studied, a 48-year-old bodybuilder developed painful lumps in
his chest muscles after injecting the area with more than one and a half quarts
of sesame seed oil over three months. Diagnostic tests revealed several areas
containing cysts filled with a white, oily fluid. The tests also revealed dead
tissue and calcium deposits under his skin.
Although the man claimed to have injected the oil without additives, sesame
seed oil is used as a way to deliver anabolic steroids, the researchers say. In
fact, the patient reported abusing injectable anabolic steroids over a two-year
period, nine months before he discovered the painful lumps.
But with or without steroids, the authors say injecting plant oil is not
healthy. "Self-injecting oil into muscle or fat has some serious risks,
both short-term and long-term," Wolf-Ingo Worret, MD, a co-author and
professor of dermatology at Technical University Munich, tells WebMD. The oily
deposits can break through the skin, and the inflammation can cause scarring
and, years later, connective tissue diseases such as scleroderma, or a
thickening and hardening of the skin, he says.
Sports medicine specialists say circuit weight training offers the advantage
of building muscle strength as well as muscle mass. "If an athlete wants to
increase muscle size, a certified trainer can develop a customized weight
training program that's both safe and effective," says Lewis Maharam, MD,
the president of the New York chapter of the American College of Sports
"Similarly, sports nutritionists can develop balanced diets that are
rich in protein," says Maharam. "So athletes should heed the advice of
these professionals. But too often, they only listen to their buddies at the
gym. And that's how they learn about oil injections and steroids."
Maharam tells WebMD that many amateur and professional athletes use
over-the-counter anabolic steroids.
"The use of oral steroids is probably more common than injections,"
says Maharam. "Because they're marketed as dietary supplements and sold at
health food stores, people assume they're safe. But they cause heart disease,
tumors, testicular shrinking, and premature balding. They can also stunt bone
growth in adolescents."