What is a Hammertoe?
Any toe, other than the great toe, that is contracted and curled at the middle joint in the toe is known as a Hammertoe. Hammertoes are an arthritic condition of the feet and there are two types: flexible with the ability of joint movement, and rigid with very limited painful movement. Both create discomfort at the top part of the toe due to rubbing against the shoe. Corns (a buildup of either soft or hard skin due to friction on the top, side or end of the toe or in between the toes), or Calluses (a skin buildup on the bottom of the toe or ball of the foot) can ultimately result in a Hammertoe.
A common cause of a Hammertoe occurs if there is a muscle imbalance in the toe resulting from a mechanical (structural) change in the foot. This change causes the ligaments and tendons to tighten, which results in the joint curling downward. People who suffer from arthritis may also experience hammertoe deformities. The contracture may be exacerbated by ill fitting tight shoes, especially if the toe is too long and forced into a cramped position. Occasionally hammertoes are inherited or caused by previous trauma.
- Trimming corns and calluses
- Padding with a non medicated pad because a medicated pad may contain a small amount of irritating acid
- Gel toe shields or caps can eliminate friction between the shoe and the toe, provide lubrication and comfort
- Wearing non pointy, proper size fitting or high heeled shoes
- Orthotic devices
- A corticosteroid injection to relieve inflammation
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [ibuprofen]
- A temporary splint or small strap affixed to realign the bent toe.
When is Surgery Necessary
If conservative methods of treatment fail and the toe[s] become too rigid, or pain still exists you should consider surgery. The most common surgical procedure is an arthroplasty—the removal of a small section of bone via a tiny incision. Another surgical option may be necessary when multiple joints or toes are affected, this is called an arthrodesisi. This procedure involves the fusion of a small joint in the toe with a pin to straighten the toe in position while the bones are healing.
Hammertoe surgery is most commonly performed under local anesthetic. The surgery takes less than fifteen minutes per toe. Through a small incision, the bone deformity is reduced and the tendons are rebalanced around the contracted joint. About four sutures are required, and you can walk immediately in a special post-operative shoe using minimal or no pain medication.
Recovery time is quick and not painful.