Compared with your fingers, toes have little mobility. While some people can pick things up with their toes, they can’t do it easily, and there’s simply no way to touch big and little toes together. It might be simple to underestimate your toes and their range of motion.
That is, until hallux rigidus strikes. Translating to stiff big toe, hallux rigidus is the most common arthritic condition affecting the foot. When you lose the ability to bend the big toe at its base, walking becomes painful and difficult.
Whenever you develop foot pain, Hudson Valley Foot Associates is your choice for quality podiatric care. Our team specializes in all aspects of foot and ankle health.
You may not notice when the range of motion in your big toe starts to decrease until pain begins. Once it does, your toe is hard to ignore. Pain when you push off with a foot as you walk is the primary symptom, and there are other signs you may notice as well.
Inflammation and swelling are common, while pain and stiffness may be worse when conditions are cold and damp or when a weather system changes. A bump at the top of the joint may form, making shoes uncomfortable.
The most common form of conditions that fall under the arthritis banner is osteoarthritis, a wear-and-tear disease that causes joint inflammation. When you consider that the force on the big toe joint is about twice your body weight with each step, it’s easy to see how wear-and-tear might be a factor.
When you add injuries like stubbing your toe to the mix, the risk of osteoarthritis in the big toe increases. Sprains of the toe can happen in some sports, leading to a condition called turf toe which can further contribute to the deterioration of the joint.
Two other arthritic forms can affect the big toe. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that attacks joints in your body and could be the reason behind deterioration. Gout results because of an excess of uric acid in your system that collects and crystalizes within joints. The big toe is one of the most common locations for a gout attack, an inflammatory form of arthritis that is very painful.
While there are other contributors such as genetics, the end result is that most cases of hallux rigidus result from some form of arthritis and most commonly from osteoarthritis.
Your treatment depends on the advancement of your condition as well as how much it affects your daily living. Typically, your first treatments will be conservative, including lifestyle changes like different shoes with stiff soles and lots of room in the toe box.
You may need to limit activities that add stress to the toe joint, such as jogging, running, or sports that require time on your toes like tennis. Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can help to manage pain and swelling. Alternating hot and cold foot baths can bring further relief.
Our podiatrists may recommend corticosteroid injections for longer-term results or other methods of reducing the motion of your big toe joint. When these methods, on their own or in combination, no longer provide sufficient relief, you have surgical options to correct the problem.
The road back to pain-free walking starts with a consultation at Hudson Valley Foot Associates. Contact the nearest of our seven New York locations by phone or online using the convenient link on this page. Book your appointment now.