What is Hallux Rigidus?

Last updated: 10-15-2020

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What is Hallux Rigidus?

Hallux rigidus is a foot condition that affects the joint located at the base of the big toe. The disorder causes a variety of symptoms, but it is characterized by the inability to easily or fully flex the toe. The term “hallux” actually refers to the big toe, and “rigidus,” as you might have guessed, describes a rigid or difficult to move object. But what causes the condition, and how is it treated? Keep reading to find out!
Hallux Rigidus Causes and Symptoms

Hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis in the big toe. You might not think that it’s a big deal, but you’d be amazed at how much flexing and support your big toe provides. Additionally, the problem continues to worsen if left untreated, meaning your toe will get stiffer and stiffer and the joint will continue to get more painful.

The underlying cause of hallux rigidus is arthritis, but there are a number of issues that can cause the arthritis to set in. Oftentimes hallux rigidus is caused by poor biomechanics, overstress, injuries or structural abnormalities of the foot. This means the likelihood of developing the condition can be passed down in your genes, or it can simply be a result of wear and tear on your toes over the years.

Symptoms of the condition depend on the stage of development, but hallux rigidus is commonly associated with:

Pain
Stiffness
Difficulty walking, running or squatting
Swelling in the joint
Dull pain in the hip or knees due to gait changes because of the condition

Hallux rigidus can also cause a person to walk with a limp or make it difficult for someone to comfortably wear shoes.
Diagnosis and Treatment

Since the condition continues to worsen until you seek treatment, obviously it is easier to treat the earlier it is diagnosed. Seek out medical attention as soon as you begin to experience symptoms. If you wait until the condition worsens and bone spurs develop, it’s going to be a lot harder to treat.

Diagnosis of the condition is rather simple. Your doctor will begin by examining your toe’s range of motion, and they may take an X-ray to look for osteophyte development. Once the doctor has a closer look at the toe, they’ll be able to diagnosis the condition’s progression, and how to best treat it.

Non-surgical treatment of hallux rigidus begins with some lifestyle modifications and physical therapy. The doctor will likely recommend you seek out a shoe with a large toe box, a stiff bottom sole, or custom orthotics to take pressure off your big toe. Once your doctor is sure your shoes aren’t contributing to the problem, they’ll likely get you set up with anti-inflammatory medications or a prescription, and they’ll recommend physical therapy to strengthen the area and promote healthy blood flow to the toe. Lastly, an injection or corticosteroid may be used to help reduce swelling and inflammation in the toe.

If conservative treatment fails, surgery may be your only option for pain relief. There are a variety of different operations that can provide relief, but it depends on the stage of progression, your activity level and other factors. Your doctor will be able to walk you through the specific procedures available to you after examining all the present factors.
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