Experimentally introduced tension on kinetochores and their centromeres has been shown to stabilize kinetochore attachment to microtubules, modify kinetochore directional instability, and regulate cell-cycle progression into anaphase. In mitosis, kinetochore tension and the stretch of centromere chromatin are produced by the movement of sister kinetochores toward opposite poles and astral ejection forces on the chromosome arms. However, newt lung cell kinetochores oscillate between poleward and away from the pole motility states throughout mitosis, indicating kinetochores are not under constant tension. To test whether kinetochores are under net tension while they are oscillating, and how often they are under compression and pushing into the chromosome, we measured the distance between sister kinetochores in newt lung cells using both video-enhanced differential interference contrast microscopy (VE-DIC) and immunofluorescence microscopy. We found that for chromosomes in which sister kinetochores are attached to opposite spindle poles, centromeres are, on average, stretched (2.2 microns in living cells and 1.8 microns in fixed cells) with respect to the inter-kinetochore ‘rest’ length (1.1 microns in living and fixed cells). For chromosomes in which only one kinetochore is attached to the spindle, the centromere chromatin associated with the tethered kinetochore is, on average, stretched to approximately half of the average inter-kinetochore distance measured for chromosomes in which both kinetochores are attached. We conclude that while newt lung cell kinetochores oscillate between states of P and AP movement, they are under tension approximately 90% of the time and under compression less than 6% of the time.