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Can you swim with Achilles tendonitis?

Updated: Jun 20

Yes, you can swim with Achilles tendonitis or tendinopathy, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Depending on how sensitive or irritated your tendon currently is, you may have to adapt what you do in the pool. Here are some things that our patients find useful. Remember, if you need more help with your Achilles injury, you're welcome to consult one of our team via video call.


Swimming with Achilles tendonitis.

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Benefits of swimming with Achilles tendinopathy/tendonitis


Swimming is a safe and excellent way of maintaining your cardiovascular fitness when you have Achilles tendonitis, because it doesn't load the tendon. It doesn't specifically help or strengthen the tendon itself, but it can help the rest of your body to stay fit and healthy, which will positively impact your return to running and other activities.


Top tips for swimming with Achilles tendonitis:

  1. Don't kick off the wall too fiercely. When you push yourself away from the wall with the ball of your foot, you load/use your Achilles tendon, and this can often irritate it when you have tendonitis.

  2. Don't jump into the shallow end of the pool. The shallower the water, the more of your weight goes through your Achilles tendon when you jump in and the more likely you are to irritate it.

  3. If you also have heel bursitis or retrocalcaneal bursitis in conjunction with Achilles tendinopathy, then vigorous kicking can further irritate the bursa. It may be better to swim with a pool buoy between your legs until the bursa has calmed down.

  4. Fins can often irritate an injured Achilles tendon if it presses directly on the injured area. It may be best to avoid swimming with fins until your tendon has fully recovered.

How we can help


Need more help with your Achilles injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at TMA online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

The Treat My Achilles Team

We're all UK Chartered Physiotherapists with Master’s Degrees related to Sports & Exercise Medicine. But at Treat My Achilles we don't just value qualifications; all of us also have a wealth of experience working with athletes across a broad variety of sports, ranging from recreationally active people to professional athletes. You can meet the team here.

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About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Master's Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn or ResearchGate.




References:

  1. Cook, J. L. and C. Purdam (2012). "Is compressive load a factor in the development of tendinopathy?" Br J Sports Med 46(3): 163-168.

  2. Mujika, I. & Padilla, S. (2001). Muscular characteristics of detraining in humans. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33(8), 1297-1303

  3. Steinmann, S., et al. (2020). "Spectrum of Tendon Pathologies: Triggers, Trails and End-State." International Journal of Molecular Sciences 21(3): 844.

  4. Van Der Vlist, A. C., et al. (2021). "Which treatment is most effective for patients with Achilles tendinopathy? A living systematic review with network meta-analysis of 29 randomised controlled trials." British Journal of Sports Medicine 55(5): 249-256.