Our toes help the body balance, walk, and bear weight. Playing sports, wearing the wrong sized shoes, or receiving an injury to the toes can cause toe disorders later in life. Of the 26 bones in the foot, 14 of them are toes. Certain diseases, such as arthritis, can also cause toe problems and pain.
The most commonly seen toe disorder occurs in the big toe joint. The metatarsophalangeal, or big toe joint, is vital to movement as it bends with every step. When the joint is compromised, it can lead to significant pain and difficulty walking. Treatment for big toe joint injuries varies from special shoe inserts, padding, rest, or in severe case, surgery.
Many of our patients at IBJI suffer from some form of arthritis, and for those who are experiencing arthritis pain in their feet, it is most common for the arthritis to occur at the base of the big toe. In the big toe joint, the ends of the bones are covered by articular cartilage, a smooth surface allowing the bones to “glide” over one another.
When this cartilage is damaged due to arthritic symptoms, a bone spur can develop on the bone, preventing the toe from being able to bend. This “stiff big toe” condition is referred to as hallux rigidus. Surgical treatments for hallux rigidus involve removing the bone spur, and depending on the level of damage to the cartilage, removing and securing the joint by fusion.
Bunions are a painful condition that affects the big toe joint. The base of the metatarsophalangeal joint gets larger and sticks out, causing wearing shoes to be very painful. Wearing tight or narrow shoes and high heels can cause bunions. In more severe instances of bunions, the big toe may begin to angle towards the second toe, forcing the second toe to move towards the third toe, developing what is referred to as a hammer toe, or claw toe. Corrective surgery for bunions can be very complex, as it calls for significant realignment of bone, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues.
A sesamoid is a type of bone in the bone that is not connected to another bone. The most common sesamoid in the body is the patella, or kneecap. These bones are held in place only by tendons, and are embedded in tissue.
Less common sesamoids are found in the bottom of the foot, and are about the size of a kernel of corn. Because these bones are directly linked to the tendons, any inflammation or damage to the tendon can cause the sesamoids to become inflamed. Sesamoiditis is most common in ballet dancers, runners, and baseball catchers. Treatments for sesamoiditis are generally nonoperative, and involve anti-inflammatories, ice, and shoe wear modification.
Many of our patients live a normal life while dealing with claw toes, but in some instances, the condition can cause severe pain due to calluses forming on the toe. More often than not, the condition is caused by wearing shoes that are too tight, or by wearing high heels. Special pads can be inserted into shoes to relieve pressure on the toe box of shoes can often provide the relief patients require. Surgical treatment involves inserting small screws or pins to the toe that will correct the bones positioning and rid the toe of any abnormal rigid positioning.
Your feet are a crucial part of your everyday life. If you are experiencing any foot pain, it’s best you get it checked out by a foot specialist. As one of the leading orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists in Illinois, Dr. Anand Vora would be happy to answer any questions you may have and create an individualized treatment plan based on your condition. For more information, please contact Dr. Vora today.
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