What Does a Swollen Achilles Tendon Mean?


A swollen Achilles tendon is a symptom of Achilles tendinitis and is common among runners, middle-aged individuals and those just starting an exercise program.

A swollen achilles tendon is common among athletes.
A swollen achilles tendon is common among athletes. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)


Achilles tendinitis occurs when the tendon is subjected to small tears resulting from physical activity. When the Achilles tendon tears, it often swells, becomes less flexible and is painful to the touch. A swollen Achilles tendon almost always indicates Achilles tendinitis.

Runners on the starting block
Runners on the starting block (Image: Gary Faber/Photodisc/Getty Images)


The Achilles tendon can become swollen due to a number of factors. Usually, overuse of the tendon is the culprit. Overuse can result from exercising without proper warm-up and warm-down or excessive exercise. Running up hills, running with poorly-fitting or new shoes and doing "too much too soon" can result in swelling of the Achilles tendon.

Running up hills can cause your Achilles tendon to swell
Running up hills can cause your Achilles tendon to swell (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)


What this means is that individuals with a swollen Achilles tendon must discontinue any physical activity that causes increased pain.

In addition, for one to two days after the swelling begins, it is important to get plenty of rest and ice the tendon for 20 minutes every hour.

Once exercise is resumed, it is important to properly warm-up before and warm-down before and activity so the Achilles tendon is fully stretched. This prevents further aggravating the tendon.

Rest your ankle
Rest your ankle (Image: Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)


In order to prevent tears of the Achilles tendon, it is important to stretch and warm-up before starting a high-intensity exercise session. Runners should start with a slow jog after warming-up and increase running intensity gradually. Calf-strengthening exercises can also help strengthen the Achilles tendon, reducing the likelihood of injury. After an activity, it is important to allow enough time for the body and tendon to recover. Those just starting an exercise program will want to allow one to two days between workouts to avoid overexerting their Achilles tendon.

Anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce swelling and pain, allowing an individual to return to his or her exercise routine faster.

Warm up properly
Warm up properly (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)


A swollen Achilles tendon can become chronic Achilles tendinitis or can eventually result in a full tear if left untreated.

If you Achilles tendon remains swollen for more than two weeks, it is important to contact your doctor for possible treatment options.

Contact your doctor for possible treatment options
Contact your doctor for possible treatment options (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

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