Is it common to have a tense muscle after reconstructive hamstring surgery?

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It’s been some months since I had reconstructive hamstring surgery. I’ve done PT and a lot of my strength has returned. However, I’m finding my muscle is subconsciously tense/flexed throughout the day, especially when I’m walking or running. It’s only on the injured side, and I can relax it when I notice it. Is this common? Will it naturally return to normal? Should I let it stay tense, or concentrate on keeping it relaxed? Anything else?

Disclaimer: Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

Things to Know

  • After surgery to a muscle, it is common for the area or nearby regions to exhibit muscle guarding.
  • Fear of reinjuring a muscle can lead to continued muscle guarding.
  • It is a good practice to relax this muscle when you notice that it is abnormally tense.

After surgery to a muscle, it is common for the area or nearby regions to exhibit muscle guarding. Muscle guarding is a protective mechanism that can happen in response to injury or pain, and this can result in subconsciously tense muscles surrounding the affected area.

Without knowing the full extent of your reconstructive surgery, it is difficult to comment on whether this muscle will return to normal, but if you are able to consciously relax it, this may indicate that it will improve. In general, reconstructive surgeries are done when there has been significant trauma to the muscle or a severe overuse injury. In this case, there can be a fear of re-injuring the muscle that contributes to the continued muscle guarding. This is a normal and expected part of the rehabilitation process after a surgery. Initial healing timelines for muscle is about 6 weeks, however a severe tear or injury may take longer.

Another part of this healing timeline is the “Contraction” phase which can last for up to a month after surgery. This phase may be contributing to the tension as it involves a reduction in the wound size making the muscle feel tighter. It is a good practice to relax this muscle when you notice that it is abnormally tense because awareness and repetition of this relaxation may help the muscle to return to its normal resting state. 

In addition to this, tight muscles generally benefit from gentle stretching as well as strengthening.

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