Big Toe Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus)
Pain in the big toe caused by a joint disorder at the toe's base
Big toe arthritis (Hallux rigidus) is a condition that causes stiffness and pain in the big toe. As the condition progresses, those afflicted with big toe arthritis find it increasingly harder to bend the toe until eventually it becomes rigid.
Big toe arthritis is a form of degenerative arthritis. In its earlier stage, motion of the big toe is only somewhat limited. But as the problem advances, the toe's range of motion gradually decreases until it potentially reaches the end stage of "rigidus"- where the big toe becomes stiff, or what is sometimes called a "frozen joint."
Early signs and symptoms include:
- Stiffness and pain in the big toe during use (walking, standing, etc.)
- Stiffness and pain aggravated by cold, damp weather
- Difficulty with certain activities (running, squatting)
- Swelling and inflammation around the joint
As the disorder gets more serious, additional symptoms may develop, including:
- Pain, even during rest
- Difficulty wearing shoes because bone spurs develop. Wearing high-heeled shoes can be particularly difficult.
- Dull pain in the hip, knee, or lower back due to changes in the way you walk
- Limping, in severe cases
Acknowledge Your Toe Problems Immediately
In many cases of big toe arthritis, early treatment can prevent or postpone the need for surgery in the future. If you catch your toe pain early enough, your toe condition is more likely to respond to less aggressive treatments like:
- Shoe modifications. Shoes that have a large toe box should be worn, because they put less pressure on your toe. Stiff or rocker-bottom soles may also be recommended.
- Orthotic devices. Custom orthotic devices may improve the function of your foot.
- Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or supplements such as glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate may be helpful.
- Injection therapy. Injections of corticosteroids in small amounts are sometimes given in the affected toe to help reduce the inflammation and pain.
- Physical therapy. Ultrasound therapy or other physical therapy modalities may be undertaken to provide temporary relief.
In some cases, surgery is the only way to eliminate or reduce pain. Today's advanced procedures allow physicians to "clean up" the joint and restore normal alignment and function.