Any joint in the body can develop degenerative arthritis because of wear and tear due to aging. When arthritis settles in the big toe joint, it makes the toe hard to bend and painful.
This condition is called hallux rigidus which means stiff or rigid big toe. Until you have a painful big toe, you don’t realize how important your toes are for simply walking, climbing up stairs or just standing still.
Sometimes members of the same family will have hallux rigidus because of common foot structures. Patients with some conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or gout are prone to hallux rigidus as are those with certain foot problems like flat feet and excessive pronation.
Hallux Rigidus Is Different from a Bunion
Hallux rigidus is not a bunion deformity even though their symptoms are similar. When arthritis begins to affect the toe joint moderately, it’s called hallux limitus because the movement of the big toe is limited but not yet rigid. You’ll notice pain when standing or moving, especially during damp or cold weather. Joint inflammation and swelling will make it difficult for some activities like running.
When the problem worsens to hallux rigidus, the toes will hurt almost all the time, even while sleeping. Bone spurs may grow on the tops of the toes which will make it hard to bend the toes.
The joint’s motion and flexibility will continue to decline if not treated properly, resulting in a stiff and immobile joint called a “frozen joint.” Individuals with this issue may suffer from additional problems like hip, back or knee pain because they change their gait to lessen the pain.
Eliminating the Discomfort of Hallux Rigidus
If you have pain in your big toe and it has become stiff or rigid, call us for an evaluation. Stavros O. Alexopoulos, DPM, will gently examine your toes and foot to diagnose hallux limitus or hallux rigidus. Our treatment options include:
Resting the foot and icing the inflamed area.
- Oral anti-inflammatory medications – with your doctor’s permission – to relieve both pain and inflammation.
- Cortisone injections into the toe.
- Custom-fitted orthotics to improve foot function as well as relieve and redistribute stress on the toe.
- Shoes with stiff soles or a rocker-style bottom and a roomy toebox can also lessen pressure on the toe joints.
Surgery may be indicated in severe cases.
We Are the Experts on Foot, Toe and Ankle Pain
Hallux rigidus won’t go away on its own so contact us as soon as possible. Dr. Alexopoulos, board certified podiatrist has the right expertise and experience to diagnose and treat all types of foot and ankle pain. Please call us at our Chicago office at (773) 561-8100 or request an appointment via the website. Our treatments will restore full toe and foot function so you can return to enjoying your normal activities.