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Arthritis of the big toe joint, or hallux rigidus, is second only to bunions as the most common condition affecting the big toe. Universally affecting women more than men, hallux rigidus generally appears in individuals from 30 to 60 years of age. It’s an often painful condition that can make movement difficult, especially for athletes. A foot doctor may be able to fine-tune treatment recommendations to allow a return to previous activities without discomfort.
Hallux Rigidus Causes and Risk Factors
There is no known cause of arthritis of the big toe. The condition may result from existing abnormalities with the big toe or having an abnormally long metatarsal, or first foot bone. Patients with a prior toe injury may also be more likely to develop arthritis at some point. Genetics may also play a role in whether or not the condition appears. Diabetic patients, for instance, often have issues with their feet that may lead to the development of arthritis.
Symptoms and Signs of Arthritis of the Big Toe
Pain experienced while walking, jogging, or running is one of the first signs of the condition. Pain tends to be more noticeable when first pushing off to start movement. Symptoms may also include joint stiffness, swelling, or an inability to bend the big toe in any direction without extreme pain or an inability to move the toe at all. A bunion or bone spur may also develop on the affected toe. Discomfort may also be experienced when shoes cause friction.
Treatment Options for Hallux Rigidus
Non-surgical treatments include anti-inflammatory medications and mild pain relievers. Some patients respond well to the application of heat or ice. Your Orange County podiatrist may recommend injections to manage pain or changes to footwear. High heels and thin-soled shoes, in particular, may place added pressure on the big toe. Shoe inserts can sometimes help limit motion of the affected joint. Surgery is rarely required to treat hallux rigidus unless the big toe is severely deformed due to the arthritis.
The role of a foot doctor is to restore normal functioning of the toe as much as possible. A podiatrist will evaluate the severity of the arthritis and the movement of the metatarsophalangeal (MTPJ) joint located by the big toe. A patient’s medical history, including any underlying conditions and previous foot issues will also be taken into consideration since these factors often determine how to proceed with treatment.