What is hallux rigidus anyway?
In simple terms, hallux rigidus means stiff big toe. With hallux rigidus, the MTP or metatarsophalangeal joint degenerates due to arthritis. Over time, people with hallux rigidus feel pain and stiffness that impacts walking and standing. Hallux rigidus is also called turf toe, a common complaint of athletes. The condition can be hereditary. However, overuse of the joint, a previous injury, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis are also common risk factors.
Look out for these symptoms
Hallux rigidus develops slowly. The pain can be intermittent, increasing in intensity and duration. Common symptoms include stiffness, swelling, and numbness. The toe becomes challenging to bend and move without pain. Walking also feels painful, especially on uneven ground. Some people with hallux rigidus develop calluses and even a bunion.
A conservative approach to treatment
People with hallux rigidus should seek medical help from a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon. These experts can perform a series of tests and confirm the condition. Most doctors will avoid surgery and try non-surgical treatment first. For starters, pads and other orthopedic devices can stabilize the joint. Wearing more comfortable shoes with a bigger toe box also helps. From there, pain medication, like NSAIDs or steroid injections, can help manage pain. Over time, these methods are effective in curbing the effects of arthritis.
Does hallux rigidus require surgery?
Unfortunately, there are cases where conservative treatment will not work. The pain and stiffness continue to impact even the simplest of tasks. At this point, surgery is an effective treatment option. A surgeon can perform a cheilectomy, which involves shaving off the bone spurs causing the pain. The surgeon may also perform further procedures to cut out bone or fuse the joints. A fusion restricts the toe’s range of motion but can significantly improve pain.
A better big toe starts with you
Arthritis in the big toe becomes troublesome if left untreated. Fortunately, there are non-surgical steps that work well. These steps work particularly well if started early. For more severe cases, removing damaged bone and realigning the joint will help. With any surgery, there are risks involved. Make sure to speak with the surgeon to iron out any concerns. Hallux rigidus does not have to impact one’s quality of life. Make sure to take action early to reduce the pain and stiffness.