Do you have pain in your big toe joint? Does the big toe joint seem stiff? Does movement of this joint cause pain? You may have hallux rigidus (the hallux is the big toe).
Hallux rigidus is an arthritic condition of the big toe joint. It can make walking quite painful. Sometimes it is caused by trauma to the joint. A forced movement up or down could damage the joint. Dropping a heavy object on the big toe could cause enough damage to cause hallux rigidus.
More often the problem is related to the type of foot structure a person is born with. Certain foot types do not allow enough movement of the toe. With each step taken, there is excess pressure in the joint. Over time, this excess pressure causes damage within the joint. Bone spurs develop, and the joint becomes enlarged. The ends of each bone within a joint are covered with cartilage. This allows for smooth, friction free motion within the joint. As the damage to the joint worsens, the cartilage begins to wear away. Without this protective tissue, there is painful rubbing of bone on bone whenever there is motion of the big toe.
Treatment of Hallux Rigidus
Treatment is based on how early in the process the problem is diagnosed. Some people develop pain before actual joint damage has occurred. In this case, simple measures may allow a return to pain free walking. An orthotic device can help induce proper motion in the big toe joint. This can delay or even prevent joint damage. Wearing appropriate, well fitted shoes is important. For women, avoiding high heeled shoes is advised.
As joint damage occurs, surgical intervention is necessary to eliminate the pain. If cartilage damage is minimal, a procedure to clean out excess bone build-up and perhaps realign the joint to provide better motion is usually very successful.
When cartilage damage is further advanced, more involved surgical techniques are required. In a limited number of patients a joint replacement may be appropriate. More often, when cartilage damage is extensive, a fusion of the joint is called for. Although the big toe joint is stiff after this procedure, it does eliminate the pain while still allowing an active lifestyle.
Seek Help Early
If you have pain in the big toe joint, seek an evaluation early. In the case of hallux rigidus, the sooner the diagnosis is made, the greater the chance of preserving the cartilage. More importantly, the earlier treatment is started, the quicker you can return to a pain free lifestyle. Drs Helms and Bowers are experts in the treatment of Hallux Rigidus.
We Can Help
If you have pain in your big toe joint, give our office a call.