Updated: Sep 5
We’re commonly asked two questions about jumping rope and the Achilles tendon. 1. Can jumping rope cause Achilles pain? 2. Can you use rope jumping as part of your treatment for Achilles tendonitis or tendinopathy? Here are the answers. And remember, if you need more help with an Achilles injury, you're welcome to consult one of our team via video call.
The terms tendinitis, tendonitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy mean the same thing for all practical purposes, and we use these interchangeably in our articles.
In this article:
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Can jumping rope cause Achilles pain?
Yes. When you skip or jump rope, most of the work is done by your calves and Achilles tendons.
You can injure an Achilles tendon if you do a skipping session that is much more intense or much longer than what you’re used to. And if you’re new to skipping, you can injure an Achilles tendon simply by starting out with doing too much.
Another way in which you can cause yourself Achilles pain or tendonitis is not allowing your tendons enough recovery time between jump rope sessions.
Whenever we exercise, the parts of our body that are being exercised sustain a bit of micro-damage. This is normal, and it signals to the brain that it should strengthen those parts. So, after a jump rope session, your body needs some time to repair and strengthen your calf muscles and Achilles tendons.
How much time this takes depends on quite a few factors, such as your fitness and the intensity of the session, but it would typically be between 24 and 48 hours.
If you regularly do another skipping session or any other exercise that works your calves and Achilles tendons hard before your body has fully recovered from the previous workout, the micro-damage can accumulate over time and develop into an overuse injury like Achilles tendonitis.
What should you do if your Achilles has become painful due to jumping rope?
It is always a good idea to have it assessed by a physio or doctor to rule out any serious injuries, like Achilles tendon tears. If it’s found that your Achilles pain is due to Achilles tendonitis or tendinopathy and not to a tear, my treatment advice will depend on how long you’ve had your symptoms for.
Scenario 1: Your Achilles pain started in the last two weeks for the very first time
In this case, your Achilles tendon is very likely just acutely flared up, and it will not really have lost much strength or changed its structure. You can get back on track by doing the following two things.
First, give your tendon some rest. For a few weeks, avoid doing any activities that cause pain in the tendon, including rope jumping.
Once your tendon has calmed down, you can ease back into your normal activities, but start by doing things that go easy on the tendon, and then gradually work your way up to the ones where the tendon has to work hard again. For example, a sequence of activities where you have to be able to do something pain-free before moving on the next might look like this:
Brisk walking, gradually increasing your time until you do 30 minutes.
Very short, easy jump rope intervals, e.g. 30 sec x 3.
Then slowly increase the duration of your skipping and make sure you space your sessions with enough recovery time between them.
Scenario 2: Your Achilles tendon has been painful on and off for several months and it has recently flared up again
In this case, you have likely had a lingering Achilles tendonitis or tendinopathy for quite some time. It is very likely that your tendon has lost some of its strength and has areas where its structure has changed. Rest alone will not be enough to get rid of your Achilles pain. You will have to do the following things to get your tendon healthy again.
Same as in Scenario 1, first give your tendon some rest. Cut out the aggravating activities to allow it to calm down.
Use a training programme to restore the strength and capacity that your tendon has lost due to the lingering tendonitis. The exercises should suit your specific case, taking your tendon’s current strength and capacity into account. If you choose exercises that are too intense, it can make your pain worse; if you choose ones that are too easy, you won’t see any results. So, it’s useful to consult a physio for a bespoke programme and advice on how to progress the exercises from easy to more difficult.
Once you’ve restored your Achilles tendon’s base strength, you can ease back into jumping activities. We discuss how you can do this safely in the next section.
Can you use rope jumping as part of treatment for your Achilles tendonitis or tendinopathy?
Yes, but only in the latter stage of your Achilles rehab programme. A typical rehab plan for treating Achilles tendonitis looks like this (the first two points here are the same as above):
Relative rest. So, not total rest – just cutting out the aggravating activities to allow your tendon to settle down.
Progressive strength training (starting low but working up to heavy loads) to restore the strength your tendon has lost.
Plyometric exercises consisting of hopping and jumping drills; these are to restore your tendon’s ability to deal with sudden, fast loads and to regain its spring-like abilities.
Gradual return to your sport – rope jumping in this case.
Now you may think, “Great, I can start jumping rope again in Stage 3!” but you have to be careful. When we prescribe a plyometric programme for Achilles tendonitis, it starts with very few hops and jumps because you have to get the tendon used to it gradually. These hops are also very controlled, and we get you to focus on getting your technique just right.
My concern about adding jump rope at this stage:
Because your arms are moving and you have to concentrate on not tripping over the rope, you may not focus that well on your technique.
It is easy to lose count and do too many jumps in one go, causing your Achilles to flare up again.
First, complete a basic plyometric programme without a jump rope. Here’s a video on how to introduce plyometrics into an Achilles rehab programme:
Once you’ve progressed to doing a good volume of hops and jumps, you can slowly ease into regular rope jumping.
I would introduce it in short intervals, e.g. 20 to 30 seconds of jumping rope, interspersed with 2 or 3 minutes of rest. Your physio will be able to advise on the best starting point and pace of progress for your specific case.
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.
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.
About the Author
Education and exercise supplemented by a pain-guided hopping intervention for male recreational runners with midportion Achilles tendinopathy: A single cohort feasibility study. Physical Therapy in Sport, Volume 40, 2019, Pages 107-116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ptsp.2019.08.007