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Hallux Rigidus

Hallux rigidus is Latin for stiff big toe, which is the main symptom of this condition. It’s a type of degenerative arthritis that affects the joint where your big toe (hallux) attaches to your foot.

This condition happens when the cartilage covering the ends of the bones in your big toe joint is damaged or lost. This causes the joint space to narrow. It can also lead to painful bone spurs. These are small, pointed growths on a bone.

Hallux rigidus is a disorder of the joint located at the base of the big toe. It causes pain and stiffness in the joint, and with time, it gets increasingly harder to bend the toe. Hallux refers to the big toe, while rigidus indicates that the toe is rigid and cannot move.

Symptoms often start out mild and slowly worsen over time. Early signs and symptoms may include:

  • pain and stiffness in your big toe during use
  • swelling and inflammation around the joint
  • pain and stiffness that worsens with cold, damp weather As the condition progresses, you may notice:
  • pain even during rest
  • a hard bump that forms at the top of your foot
  • inability to bend your big toe
  • limping

For most people, there is no clear cause. Hallux rigidus likely develops because the toe joint experiences a lot of stress when you walk. Every step you take places a force equal to twice your body weight on the toe joint. Other causes of hallux rigidus include:

  • Overuse of the joint, such as in workers who stoop or squat or athletes who stress the joint.
  • Injuries, such as stubbing the toe or spraining the joint.
  • Genetics, since it can run in the family. It may come from inheriting a particular foot type or way of walking that leads to the condition.
  • Osteoarthritis, which is joint inflammation due to wear and tear on the joint.
  • Inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
Your doctor can diagnose hallux rigidus by testing your toe joint’s range of motion. Your provider may check how far you can bend the toe up and down. An X-ray can show any bone abnormalities or bone spur development.

To relieve pain, your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Appropriate shoes: Wear shoes that have plenty of room for your toes. You may find that shoes with stiff soles relieve pain. Avoid wearing high heels.
  • Limited toe movement: Place pads in your shoe to limit movement of your big toe. Avoid activities that stress your toe joint, such as jogging.
  • Pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can relieve pain and reduce swelling.
  • Foot soaks: Try a contrast bath, switching between hot and cold water to relieve inflammation. Place your foot in hot water for 30 seconds, then right away in cold water for 30 seconds.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections can help relieve pain
  • Though in extreme cases may require hallux rigidus surgery.

You can’t keep the condition from happening, but you can slow its progress if you:

  • Exercise to keep the joint mobile.
  • Rest the joint when you feel pain.
  • Wear good-fitting shoes with enough space around the toes.
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For our patient’s convenience, we offer foot and ankle treatments for all kinds of conditions such as Hallux rigidus in Adrian, MI, Hallux rigidus in Ann Arbor, MI, and Hallux rigidus in Jackson, MI. We have our own digital x-ray, MRI, Cat-scan, and ultrasound equipment at many of our podiatry clinics. Our on-site podiatric physical therapy clinics allow for constant communication between the physicians and physical therapists, ensuring the most effective therapy and successful recovery for our patients.

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