Hallux Rigidus: Defeat the Spell, Beat the Pain

You may think of a bespectacled little boy with a scar on his forehead and a wand in his hand when you hear the words hallux rigidus. If you have suffered from this painful condition, the thought that someone may have put a spell on your big toe may not seem that ludicrous! You may not be in Harry Potter’s league, but there are things you can do as a finite incantatum to defend against the dark arts of this form of degenerative arthritis.

Your Own Foot Casts the Spell

The reasons you may develop hallux rigidus are all bound up in how your foot functions. If the bones in your MTP joint (at the base of your big toe) become misaligned, they will not move normally while you walk. The cartilage at the end of the bones experiences wear and tear with overuse, injury, or aging and begins to disintegrate, a condition known as osteoarthritis. The bones can also build up spurs or extra growths at the friction points that can block normal joint movement.

It is not understood why some people get this condition and not others, but a past injury like a stubbed or broken toe, a deformity like bunions, or an inherited foot structure that puts extra pressure on the joint, could be a suspected culprit. You may also develop a stiff big toe if you work at a job that has you stooping or squatting a lot, or are a dancer who puts undue pressure on your toes.

Signs of This Painful Condition

The early symptoms for this condition are pain, stiffness, and swelling. You may notice the pain while you stand, walk or bend, and it may seem worse when the weather is cold and damp. Certain activities like squatting or pushing off while running may be difficult. The joint may look swollen and red. If you are developing a spur, there could be a bump on top of the joint.

If you do nothing to treat it, the pain will be worse and last longer, even at rest. You may find it hard to find shoes that fit without rubbing against the joint, and notice that it is harder to move your toe. Eventually, you will reach the stage where the joint becomes rigid, stiff, or locks up. This makes it difficult to be physically active.

Beating the Spell

Harry learned all the defensive spells to avert danger from himself and his friends. Several conservative treatments are available to ward off this condition and relieve the pain, too. Shoe modifications are often the place to start. You’ll need a pair with wide toe boxes and a stiff or rocker-bottom sole to keep the joint from too much movement. Custom orthotics can also be designed that improve the mechanics of your feet as you walk, relieving pressure on the joint. Sometimes we may recommend pain relievers, ultrasound, or injection therapy to get rid of the pain. A final option is surgery, and there are many possible procedures depending on how far the problem has progressed.

Dr. Hal Abrahamson and Dr. Daniel E. Orozco are not wizards, but they may have a few “spells” up their sleeves to keep your pain away and your toe from becoming rigid. The thing is, you need to come in to Aadvanced Foot Care Associates early on, before hallux rigidus sets in. Pain is not normal. If you feel it, you should put your foot health in our expert hands for the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Call us at one of our New York locations: Rego Park, NY, at (718) 896-4433, Plainview, NY, at (516) 822-9595, and Flushing, NY, at (718) 969-2266, or request an appointment online. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about caring for and protecting your feet.


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97-07 63 Road
Rego Park, NY 11374
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