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Hallux Rigidus

Stiff Big Toe Treatments

Help for Hallux Rigidus (Stiff Big Toe) in Asheville, NC

Do you feel pain in your big toe joint when you walk, run or lunge forward? Do you find yourself putting the most pressure on the outside of your foot when you walk, because your big toe won’t bend normally? These are signs of a condition called Hallux Rigidus, more commonly known as “stiff big toe.”

What is hallux rigidus?

Hallux rigidus occurs when the protective articular cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in the big toe joint wears away. This causes the bones to rub together an irritates the joint. Over time, bone spurs (overgrowth of bony tissue) can form on top of the toe and foot bones, causing pain and stiffness.

In more severe cases, the big toe joint may not be able to move much or at all, causing a person to alter their gait and leading to secondary injuries.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain in the joint where your big toe meets your foot, particularly during “push-off” when walking or running
  • Swelling and tenderness in the joint
  • Stiffness in the joint, often pronounced
  • A bony bump on top of your foot, near the big toe joint

Is stiff big toe treatable?

There are several treatment options for hallux rigidus, depending on the severity of the injury and what activity level you would like to resume. The first step is to see an experienced board certified orthopedic surgeon, who can diagnose hallux rigidus and recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

During your initial appointment, your doctor will talk with you about your injury and medical history and examine your foot to assess pain and range of motion. They also may order X-rays to determine the location and extent of any bone spurs and get a more accurate picture of cartilage wear.

Non-surgical treatments for hallux rigidus

If joint damage, pain and stiffness are not too severe, your doctor may recommend a non-surgical treatment plan, including one or more of the following:

  • Over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Advil or Aleve
  • Periodic icing of the joint, or alternating hot/cold therapy
  • Changing your shoes. You will need to avoid high heels, and wear shoes with a large enough toe box to reduce pressure on the big toe joint.
  • Orthotics or shoe inserts

Surgery to correct a stiff big toe

If your stiff big toe is preventing you from walking normally or pain is more constant or intense, surgery may be the best option. Our orthopedic surgeons base their surgical approach on the size and location of bone spurs, the extent of cartilage damage, and your age and desired activity level. Surgery may involve:

  • Removing bone spurs and/or a portion of the foot bone (cheilectomy)
  • Fusing the toe bone to the foot bone (arthrodesis)

Depending on the type of surgery performed, recovery may involve using crutches to avoid weight bearing on the affected foot, plus several months or longer wearing a stiff-soled sandal. Following cheilectomy, patients typically begin gradual weight-bearing 2 weeks after surgery. Arthrodesis requires several weeks non weight-bearing, plus a permanent modification in footwear; however, the pain relief this procedure provides can be significant.

We will discuss all of your treatment options in detail with you to help you choose the procedure that will provide the best possible outcome for your individual needs.

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If a foot injury is keeping you from enjoying a full, active lifestyle, we can help. Please call 828-253-7521 or contact us today to make an appointment.

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