The big toe helps you keep your balance when you stand. It also allows you to control your foot better when you run or walk. Generally, the big toe is durable despite the stress it endures over a lifetime. However, people with degenerative arthritis may develop big toe arthritis or hallux rigidus. Early detection and treatment of this condition are necessary to avoid the need for surgery in the future.
What Is Big Toe Arthritis?
Big toe arthritis or hallux rigidus occurs when arthritis affects the joint at the base of your big toe, called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. This condition worsens over time, decreasing the toe’s motion and making it difficult to walk or stand.
Joint degeneration due to arthritis causes your bones to rub together, resulting in stiffness. It also leads to bone growths called spurs that further restrict movement. In some cases, the stiffness may worsen when the weather is cold, causing the joints to swell and become inflamed.
This condition commonly affects adults between the ages of 30 and 60 and can develop due to the following:
- Overuse of the joint
- An injury to the toe, like stubbing it or spraining the joint
- Other medical conditions like gout or rheumatoid arthritis
Symptoms of Big Toe Arthritis
Hallux rigidus translates to “stiff big toe,” which is the primary symptom of this condition. Other symptoms include:
- Swelling and redness
- Aggravating pain when standing, walking, or running
- Pain in the big toe when resting
- Bump, bunion, or callus
- Difficulty standing or walking
It is essential to pay attention to the symptoms of big toe arthritis because it is easier to treat when caught early. Big toe arthritis is more challenging to address when bone spurs have developed.
Treatments for Big Toe Arthritis
Getting early treatment for big toe arthritis significantly reduces the risk of needing surgery in the future. Below are some treatment options to consider.
To relieve early symptoms of big toe arthritis, you should rest your feet and avoid standing and walking for some time. You can also try a contrast bath in which you soak your foot in cold water for 30 seconds, then place it in warm water for another 30 seconds. Repeat this for 5 minutes, making sure that your last soak is in cold water.
If you are unable to relieve pain with simple home remedies, you may take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain. Recommended NSAIDs for big toe arthritis include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen.
Wearing the wrong footwear when doing physical activities increases your risk of injuries and accidents. So, it is always best to pick the right shoes for your feet. Go for shoes with stiff soles and a large toe box. Skipping the high heels can help also relieve symptoms. Your doctor may recommend custom orthotics or shoe inserts to relieve pressure.
For prevention, you should opt out of physical activities that increase your risk of developing big toe arthritis, especially when you know you have degenerative arthritis. Instead of running, playing basketball, or doing ballet, go for swimming or cycling. Avoiding high-impact stress on your feet will decrease future problems for your big toe.
If non-surgical remedies fail to relieve symptoms of big toe arthritis, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. Some of these procedures include:
- This treatment is for mild to moderate cases of big toe arthritis. It is done to remove bone spurs, allowing the toe to bend correctly again.
- This treatment is reserved for patients with severe cases of big toe arthritis. Your provider will remove the damaged cartilage, realign the bones, and secure them in a fixed position. With the help of surgical hardware, the bones will eventually fuse.
- In this procedure, your doctor will remove the affected joint and replace it with artificial implants. Arthroplasty can help restore motion and is ideal for older adults.
Big Toe Arthritis Treatment in Ohio
Early detection and treatment of big toe arthritis can go a long way in decreasing your risk for further complications and possible surgery. It’s always best to seek immediate medical care when you experience any of the symptoms of this condition.
Cincinnati Foot & Ankle Care would love to help diagnose and treat your foot problems. Our board-certified podiatrists are committed to giving patients the highest quality care. We have 18 clinics across Southwest Ohio for your convenience. You may also use our secure online form to schedule an appointment with us. Get the best care your foot needs with us!