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What Does a Swollen Achilles Tendon Mean?

Updated July 19, 2017

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.

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Considerations

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.

Causes

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.

Significance

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.

Prevention

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.

Warning

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.

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About the Author

Jisel Perilla works as a writer mental health counselor in the Washington, D.C area. She has written and contributed to several Frommer's Travel Guides, as well for a variety of culture, health and entertainment publications. She majored in English and minored in Spanish at the University of Mary Washington in Frederickburg, Va., and has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

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