Hallux Rigidus: Stiffening the Toes

Have you ever tried to rub two sheets of sandpaper together? The rough surfaces catch and grind against each other rather than sliding smoothly. You can force them to keep rubbing, but damage the paper in the process. This can occur to your skeleton. When two bones rub against each other without a protective surface in between, they grind and harm each other. In your foot, this frequently results in hallux rigidus.

Stiff Big ToeGrinding Bones

Hallux rigidus is a stiffening of the big toe in its first joint, where the toe meets the metatarsal in the ball of the foot. It’s actually a result of degenerative arthritis and is an advanced progression of hallux limitus. Over time, wear and tear can cause a break down in the protective cartilage that allows your toe to bend and move smoothly. The ends of the bones then rub together. The friction increases the damage in the joint and makes it harder to bend the toe. As the damage progresses, a bone spur grows out of the joint and further impairs movement.

This rigidness in the toe makes it difficult and uncomfortable to walk. The joint swells and hurts when you are active, especially when you push off the ground. Usually a bump develops on the top or side of the foot as the spur grows. Your toe becomes increasingly stiffer as the condition progresses. You’ll need to have this discomfort diagnosed and treated right away to restore some range of motion to your foot; otherwise the arthritis may permanently disable your toe.

Reduce Friction, Relieve Pain

Once a bone spur has developed, hallux rigidus is much harder to remedy, so don’t wait to have the symptoms evaluated and your joint treated. Steven Brook, D.P.M., Robert Einhorn, D.P.M., and Akmal Atmar, D.P.M. at Country Foot Care will examine your toe and test its movement. We may also request diagnostic images to see the damage in the joint and how far the condition has progressed. Then we will discuss your treatment options with you.

You’ll need to decrease the inflammation and friction in the foot to reduce the pain. You’ll need to wear a stiff-soled shoe to limit the movement in that first joint when you walk. The shoes may need to have a rocker sole or metal shank to allow you to push off the ground without bending your foot too much. Icing the joint discourages swelling and inflammation. You may need anti-inflammatory medication for the pain as well. If conservative measures are not enough to slow the condition’s progression and reduce discomfort, you may need surgery. Removing the spur, fusing the toe bones, and replacing the joint are all common procedures. What will work for you depends on your level of normal activity and the extent of your pain.

Hallux rigidus is an uncomfortable and extremely limiting arthritis in the big toe. The more it progresses, the more it impairs your mobility and independence. The problem can be slowed and your pain relieved, however, if you seek treatment for it right away. Contact Country Foot Care in NY for an appointment or more information. Fill out the website contact form or call (516) 741-FEET to reach us.

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