Is it okay to exercise and stretch with Achilles tendinitis?

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I’ve recently been diagnosed with Achilles tendinitis and tendinosis as well as pre-Achilles bursitis, and I’m just getting started dealing with it. Can you help me understand when it is OK to try to improve this via exercise, stretching, massage, etc., vs. when it is really important to immobilize it, e.g., with an orthopedic boot? I notice that the boot seems to be designed to prevent exactly the same motion that you would use if you were doing the anti-tendonitis exercises. I would much rather do the exercise and massage, but I don’t want to break anything in there. What is a good way to think about this?

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

  • Pain in the Achilles is typically due to tissue irritation not injury.
  • Stretching and strengthening the Achilles can help with recovery.
  • A physical therapist can provide a thorough evaluation and rehabilitation plan.

Thank you for your question!


We’re limited in our ability to give you specific information without doing an examination; however, we can give you some general information that may be helpful.  


People with Achilles tendinitis, tendinosis, or bursitis commonly tolerate exercise and stretching within an individualized physical therapy program quite well and show faster and more long-lasting improvement than with immobilization in a boot alone.  


In general, strengthening and stretching of the Achilles in a focused and appropriate way with an exercise program will help it recover well. In cases where there is significant pain that is causing limping, or an inability to participate in daily activities, a boot can be worn for a minimal amount of time to facilitate return to normal activity. 


The likelihood of doing damage to the Achilles or other tissues in the ankle with a focused exercise program is very low. Pain, especially in the Achilles, does not tend to correlate with tissue injury, but rather, tissue irritation and discomfort. Typically, exercise for the Achilles starts with standing on two legs and slowly rising up onto the toes and back to flat feet. Most folks can tolerate a version of this relatively quickly in the rehabilitation process.  


If the symptoms you are describing have persisted longer than two weeks, or for additional specific guidance, we recommend being evaluated by a physical therapist. A PT can determine the source of your symptoms and prescribe an appropriate exercise program.


To locate a Therapeutic Associates practitioner near you, visit our clinic locator.


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