There are hammers, jackhammers, and even hammerhead sharks but did you know you could have hammertoes? This foot deformity is a result of muscle and ligament imbalances around the toe joint. These imbalances result in an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe and cause it to become fixed in an awkward, sometimes painful position. The experts at Aadvanced Foot Care Associates can correct this foot condition and get you back on your toes gracefully.
There are two different types of hammertoes:
- Flexible – Allows the toe to bend at the joint. This early stage is mild and allows for many treatment methods.
- Rigid – Causes the tendons to become stiff and press the toe joint out of alignment. At this stage, the toe in immovable and often requires surgery.
What Causes My Toe to Bend?
Muscle discrepancies place excess pressure on the tendons and joints of the toe. This pressure forces the toe into a hammerhead shape. Three contributing factors to muscle imbalance include:
- Genes: The tendency to develop hammertoes may be inherited. The condition itself isn’t hereditary but other inheritable factors make individuals more susceptible to developing this deformity. Factors that make your feet unstable, such as having flat feet or high arches, may lead to hammertoe.
- Trauma: Stubbing, jamming, or breaking your toe may make it more likely to develop this deformity.
- Shoes: Shoes that are too tight and heels that are too high will push your toes out of balance. When they are crowded into a small space they are unable to lie flat. Eventually this curled position becomes fixed even when barefoot.
- Nerve Injury or Disorder: Exposure to medical complications such as stroke or diabetes can cause nerve damage in the feet. This nerve damage may eventually translate into hammertoes. Individuals with these conditions should see one of our podiatrists at the first sign of foot trouble.
Other factors that should be taken into consideration are age, sex, and toe length. The risk of developing hammertoes increases as you get older. Women are much more likely show symptoms–primarily due to high heels. And if your second toe is longer than the first, it’s at higher risk.
What are the Symptoms?
The most common grievance with hammertoes is friction and tenderness on the top of the bent toe. Depending on the severity of the bend, movement may be difficult or extremely painful. Corns and calluses may also develop as a result from the toe rubbing against the inside of your footwear.
How Can I Prevent Hammertoe?
Proper footwear plays an enormous role. Wearing the right shoes can make a world of a difference. If you have two differently sized feet, fit your shoes to the larger one. Buy your shoes at the end of the day when your feet are largest and avoid high heels.
It is also important to regularly check your feet for problems. By caring for your feet on a daily basis you are more apt to detect a problem in its early, easily treatable stages. Individuals with diabetes and people with poor circulation or numbness in their toes, especially need to implement this act of self-preservation.
Another essential key to avoiding hammertoes is good circulation. If you’re sitting for long periods of time, put your feet up. Every few minutes, stretch your legs and toes. Massaging your feet will also promote blood flow.
How is it Treated?
Switching to proper footwear and custom prescribed orthotics will relieve pressure and friction. Along with foot exercises to restore muscle balance, your podiatrist may also prescribe medication to reduce pain and swelling. If your hammertoe continues to worsen, surgery is the next option. With surgery, a small piece of bone at the joint will be removed to allow for realignment.
With three offices in New York, you have many locations to choose from when it comes to expert foot care. Don’t let hammertoes affect your happiness. Make an appointment with one of our podiatrists by calling (718) 896-4433, (516) 822-9595 or (718) 969-2266 today. You can also make an appointment with us online. We look forward to your visit!