Toes can be ticklish, wiggly, and even cute, but sometimes they can be a pain. When the middle toe joint bends and gets stuck protruding above the others, there’s no denying it—you have a hammertoe. Because of the abnormal position, the top of the bent toe can become irritated and painful from shoes rubbing on it. Fortunately, a range of treatment options are available.
How Hammertoes Happen
This deformity can occur in all toes except for your big one. If you have this condition, it could be because it runs in your family. Flat feet and high arches are inherited and can cause instability, which in turn can cause hammertoes. Before you blame your parents, though, think back on whether or not you have ever had a traumatic injury involving the affected toe. A past injury may cause damage that develops into a hammertoe over time. Another possibility is a ligament and muscle imbalance around your toe joints. The muscles of each toe work together, so if they are imbalanced, it puts pressure on the toe’s tendon and joint, forcing it into a hammer position. Other likely culprits are ill-fitting shoes and arthritis.
A Tool Belt of Treatments
If you still have mobility in the joint, that’s called flexible hammertoe, and that’s good! It means the condition is in its early stages and a number of treatment options can help. Your best bet is to wear shoes with a broad and high toe box to give your toes plenty of room and keep them from rubbing against your shoes. We may recommend anti-inflammatory medication, ice packs, and massage to relieve any swelling or pain.
If you have tried at-home treatments to no avail, Podiatry Associates, P.C. can help in several ways. We can prescribe custom orthotics, or shoe inserts, which are made according to your specific needs and help support your foot, as well as prevent the condition from getting worse. We can also go over exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine. Sometimes splinting the toe can provide relief as well. If your pain persists and the joint becomes stiff, the condition has progressed to rigid hammertoes. At this point, the joint has been pushed out of alignment and the toe cannot be moved. A surgical procedure may be the only option left.
There are several different types of surgery to correct the condition, depending on the level of severity. One of the most common procedures is called arthroplasty. This entails detaching a small portion of the joint bone. Another surgery, arthrodesis, is used for extreme cases and involves straightening the toes by inserting a small pin. Typically, no matter what surgery is performed, recovery will take just a few months.
If you’re noticing an abnormal bend in your toe joint, or you are experiencing pain and discomfort, don’t hesitate to visit Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen the team at Podiatry Associates, P.C. We have three convenient locations in Castle Pines, Cherry Creek, and Parker, CO. Call (303) 805-5156 for an appointment or request one online. Don’t let hammertoes get you down. If you can’t wiggle your toes, or if they’re anything but cute and you’re in no mood to be tickled, it’s time you called today!