Hallux rigidus or stiff big toe is an indicative symptom of the condition. This is considered as a form of degenerative arthritis that can trigger pain and rigidity in the metatarsophalangeal joint.
Since hallux rigidus has a progressive nature, the range of motion of the toe is reduced as time goes on which makes walking or standing painful. The stiffness and pain can worsen during cold, damp weather and the joint can even become swollen and inflamed. If there is a lump or bump such as a callus or bunion on the top part of the foot, wearing shoes can be difficult. The condition is one of the common disorders affecting the big toe which typically affects teenagers and adults especially between the 30-60 years old.
What are the causes?
There is no precise cause of hallux rigidus. The condition can develop due to overuse of the joint especially among workers who are required to stoop and squat as well as athletes who place substantial stress on the joint. The condition can also occur after an injury such as stubbing the toe or spraining the joint.
In some individuals, the condition tends to run in families and originates from a certain foot type or a manner of walking that can lead to this condition. Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout are the possible causes of hallux rigidus.
Diagnosing hallux rigidus
The doctor will diagnose the condition by testing the range of motion of the affected joint such as how far the toe can bend up and down. When an X-ray is performed, it can reveal if there are any abnormalities in the bone or presence of bone spurs.
Immediate treatment of hallux rigidus typically includes the following:
- Using proper shoes that provide adequate room for the toes. In some individuals, shoes that have stiff soles can help relieve the pain and women must avoid using high heels.
- Apply padding in the shoes used to limit movement of the big toe
- Avoid engaging in high-impact activities such as jogging
- Provide the individual with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen to alleviate the pain and minimize the swelling in the big toe. In some cases, the doctor might recommend corticosteroid injections into the joint.
In case the stiffness and pain persist, surgical intervention might be needed. In such circumstances, shaving of the bone spur can help reduce the pain and preserve joint motion. Oftentimes, it might be needed to slice the bone to realign it or shorten the big toe.
Even though there is no precise way to prevent hallux rigidus, you can slow down its progression by engaging in exercises to keep the joint mobile, resting the joint if it becomes sore and using properly-fitting shoes that have enough room around the toe area.