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Causes of High Creatine Kinase Levels

Chronic muscular, heart, or brain damage can raise blood creatine kinase (CK) levels. This has many causes, including:

Heart attack

A heart attack happens when there is a blockage in the blood flow to an area of your heart typically caused by a blood clot. This leads to a lack of oxygen and nutrients reaching your heart muscle resulting in its deterioration. During this process certain cells in your heart muscle release CK into your bloodstream, CK MB which is predominantly present in the heart.

Muscle injury

Muscle injuries can happen as a result of factors such as trauma, excessive use, infection, inflammation or the use of certain medications. When your muscle fibers experience damage or inflammation they release CK into your bloodstream, CK MM, which is predominantly present, in skeletal muscles.

Brain damage

Brain damage can happen as a result of factors, such as stroke, head trauma, seizures, infections, tumors or drug use. When the cells in your brain get harmed or perish they release CK into your bloodstream. CK BB is particularly common in the brain. Can be detected there.

Other factors that can increase CK levels in your blood include:

Intense exercise: Intense exercise can cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, which release CK into your blood. This is usually temporary and harmless, unless you have a condition that makes you prone to muscle damage.

  • High muscle mass: CK levels are higher in those with more muscle mass. This is because more muscular tissue makes and releases CK.
  • Age: Muscle mass and renal function decline with aging. This reduces CK production and excretion.
  • Gender: Men have higher CK levels than women. This is because men have more testosterone and muscle than women.
  • Diet: Consuming a lot of meat or protein might raise creatinine and CK levels. Creatine helps muscles produce energy, and CK turns creatine into phosphocreatine.
  • Hydration: Drinking enough water dilutes CK in blood and urine. Dehydration increases CK levels and makes renal filtering tougher.
  • Medication: CK production and excretion can be affected by some medicines. Statins, which cut cholesterol, can harm muscles and raise CK.

Symptoms of High Creatine Kinase Levels

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High creatine kinase (CK) levels may not cause any symptoms by themselves. However, they may indicate an underlying condition that causes symptoms related to the affected tissue. For example:

Heart attack symptoms

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain that radiates to the jaw or arm
  • sweating; nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • irregular heartbeat

Muscle injury symptoms

  • Muscle pain
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • difficulty moving

Brain damage symptoms

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • memory loss
  • speech problems
  • vision problems
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you have any of these symptoms along with high CK levels, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis of High Creatine Kinase Levels

To diagnose high creatine kinase (CK) levels, your doctor will order a blood test that measures the amount of CK in your blood. The normal range of CK varies depending on the laboratory and the method used. However, a general reference range is:

  • 38 to 174 units per liter (U/L) for men
  • 26 to 140 U/L for women

Your doctor will also check the ratio of different types of CK in your blood:

  • CK-MM: 95% to 100% of total CK
  • CK-MB: 0% to 5% of total CK
  • CK-BB: 0% of total CK

An elevated level of total CK or a high ratio of a specific type of CK can indicate tissue damage or disease. For example:

  • A high level of total CK or a high ratio of CK-MM can indicate skeletal muscle damage or disease.
  • A high level of total CK or a high ratio of CK-MB can indicate heart muscle damage or disease.
  • A high level of total CK or a high ratio of CK-BB can indicate brain damage or disease.

Your doctor may also order other tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine the cause of high CK levels. These tests may include:

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

A test that measures the electrical activity of your heart and can detect signs of a heart attack or other heart problems.


A test that measures a protein that is released into your blood when your heart muscle is damaged. Troponin is more specific and sensitive than CK for diagnosing a heart attack.


A test that measures a waste product that is filtered by your kidneys and excreted in your urine. Creatinine levels can indicate how well your kidneys are functioning and can be affected by CK levels.


A test that analyzes your urine for signs of infection, inflammation, or kidney problems. Urine can also contain CK that is excreted by your kidneys.

Muscle biopsy

A test that involves taking a small sample of your muscle tissue and examining it under a microscope for signs of damage or disease.

Treatment of High Creatine Kinase Levels

The treatment of high creatine kinase (CK) levels depends on the cause and severity of the condition. The main goals of treatment are to:

  • Treat the underlying condition that causes high CK levels
  • Prevent or reduce further tissue damage
  • Relieve symptoms and complications
  • Restore normal function and quality of life

The treatment options may include:


Depending on the reason your doctor might prescribe medications to address issues such as infection, inflammation, pain, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood clotting or other related concerns.


Based on the underlying issue your doctor might suggest a procedure to fix or substitute impaired tissue like an obstructed artery, a torn muscle or a tumor, in the brain.

Physical therapy

If there's a reason your doctor might suggest seeing a physical therapist who can assist you in enhancing your muscle strength, flexibility and mobility.

Lifestyle changes

Based on the underlying reasons your doctor might suggest lifestyle modifications to prevent or minimize additional harm to your tissues. These changes may include quitting smoking, adopting a diet, staying hydrated, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, managing stress effectively and maintaining a regular exercise routine.


Muscles, heart, and brain contain creatine kinase (CK). It helps cells produce energy but can seep into the blood when tissues are injured. High CK levels can suggest heart attack, muscular injury, or brain damage. High CK levels may not cause symptoms, but they may indicate a tissue-related disease. A blood test measuring CK levels and CK type ratios will be ordered by your doctor to diagnose elevated CK levels. Your doctor may prescribe additional tests to confirm the diagnosis and discover the reason for high CK levels. The reason and severity of elevated CK levels determine treatment. The major therapy aims are to address the underlying illness that causes high CK levels, prevent or limit tissue damage, relieve symptoms and consequences, and restore normal function and quality of life. Medication, surgery, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications are possible treatments.

James Freeman


Liam Marshall, the friendly fitness coach, has spent 14 years sharing his love for sports and fitness. With degrees in sports science, he crafts workouts that fit like your favorite jeans. Beyond the gym, he organizes sports clinics and tech-savvy fitness apps that motivate people worldwide. He's all about making fitness doable for everyone, and it's not just about bodies – it's boosting confidence. In 2019, he scored the "Virginia Fitness Coach of the Year" award. Outside the fitness world, he loves family time and hikes in Shenandoah National Park. Liam's journey from a small-town fitness fan to a big-time coach is all about passion, inspiring people to see fitness as a body-and-mind thing. Catch him on Instagram to stay in the loop!