October 14, 2019
Achieving full foot function without surgery is possible.
The foot is a complex structure made up of 26 bones and 33 joints. All of these bones and joints absorb the full impact of our weight every time we take a step. For someone with healthy bones and joints in their feet, this impact goes unnoticed, a mindless task like breathing. But for folks with a bone or joint injury or condition, each step can be painful and limit their daily life.
What is Hammertoe?
One common orthopaedic condition in the foot is hammertoe. Hammertoe develops when ligaments and tendons contract instead of functioning correctly. This creates the appearance of a bump or hump on the joint. It is most common in the second toe, also called the “long toe,” but may present in the proximal, or “pinky toe,” in some cases.
Similar conditions of clawtoe and mallet toe also present from weakened muscles causing ligaments to contract. Clawtoe means your digit is bent in the middle and at the end. Mallet toe refers to a deformity at the end of the toe. Each condition can be diagnosed and treated by a fellowship trained orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon.
When performing the diagnosis, your orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist will also categorize your hammertoe using the terms rigid, semi-rigid, or flexible. Conditions with less flexibility cause more pain. Surgical intervention is a fast and proven way to return your foot to normal function, but there are non-surgical treatment options available that work for contracted ligaments. The non-surgical methods are especially effective for patients in the flexible category, which is why it’s important to see a specialist sooner rather than later.
Proven Treatments for Hammertoe
The two primary goals of treatment are to 1) stretch the ligaments to their intended position and 2) strengthen the muscles supporting the joint. In some cases, surgery is required to correct the ligaments and muscles, but if addressed early hammertoe can be treated through one or a combination of ways:
- Using a splint to straighten the toe and stretch the tendons
- Performing therapeutic exercises to relax and stretch the tendons
- Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the joint
- Wearing properly fitted shoes and avoiding restrictive or high-heeled shoes
- Using fitted shoe inserts, cushions, or straps to relieve pressure
How to Reduce Your Risk of Hammertoe
Although the biggest risk factor is your genetics, there are a few things we can do to reduce our likelihood of developing hammertoe, clawtoe, and mallet toe.
- Exercise your toes – talk to a physical therapist or foot and ankle doctor for recommendations
- Wear shoes with larger toe boxes and avoid tight, ill-fitting footwear – try not to compress your toes
- Look for good arch support – high arches and low arches can both lead to toe deformities
If you start to notice any toe or foot deformity, talk to a foot and ankle specialist with orthopaedic training. This will ensure that they look at your foot function related to the rest of your joints and can recommend the best treatment for you.
Stop Suffering from Hammertoe
Hammertoe is easy to treat. Stop suffering through toe and foot pain; take the next step toward walking pain-free. Scheduling your appointment with a fellowship trained, board certified orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist is a great place to start. With appointment availability Monday through Saturday, you can see the right physician when it fits your schedule. Contact Beacon Orthopaedics by phone 24/7 at 513-354-3700 or schedule online at your convenience at beaconortho.com.