What’s Behind Hallux Rigidus

Hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis that affects the big toe and one that we at Superior Foot & Ankle Care Center would rather treat in its earlier stages rather than its later ones. What starts out as stiffness in the toe joint will eventually progress to pain, decreased the range of motion and even a frozen big toe joint as the cartilage continues to deteriorate. Being unable to bend your big toe affects all motions that involve pushing off with the toe. These include essential activities like walking, running, squatting down and climbing stairs. At some point even standing and putting any weight on the toe at all can be extremely painful. In addition, hallux rigidus can lead to the development of other conditions such as bunions, bone spurs and calluses.

Who’s at Risk?

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing hallux rigidus and not all of them are within your control. Structural abnormalities and faulty foot mechanics are often to blame for this disorder and those can be inherited or the result of another condition like flat feet or excessive pronation of the ankles which can cause stress to the toe joint. Hallux rigidus, like other forms of arthritis, may develop in a joint that was previously injured. It can also be the result of overuse of a sport that requires pushing off with the toe or a job where you are frequently squatting or doing other activities that bend the toe.

What Can be Done?

If after assessing the state of your big toe joint through examination and x-rays our podiatrists, Dr. Victoria Foley and Dr. Constance Ornelas diagnose hallux rigidus (or hallux limitus—the same condition at an earlier stage) the next step will be determining the correct treatment plan for you.

The foot doctor may recommend rest, icing and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen to bring relief of symptoms. Cortisone injections, changes in shoe choice, custom orthotics and physical therapies are all options that can help increase the range of motion and slow the progression of arthritis. In cases that are too far progressed or where there are additional complications, surgery may be the best option,

To learn more, contact our Long Beach office by calling: 562-420-9800.