Arthritis affects 40 million people in the US. There are many types of arthritis and it can manifest in almost any part of the body so it’s difficult at times to keep track of what’s what. The most common arthritic condition of the foot is called Hallux Rigidus. No, it’s not a spell from Harry Potter; Hallux is a name for the big toe and Rigidus means it has become rigid, unable to bend.
Hallux Rigidus is a degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis), meaning it can occur from the everyday wear and tear you put on your feet. You are at greater risk for hallux rigidus if you have a family history of arthritis or have a preexisting structural abnormality (fallen arches, excessive pronation, etc.). One in every 40 adults over 50 years old are affected by this condition.
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The toe becomes stiff because the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint at the base of the large toe becomes inflamed and hinders proper movement. This leads to a big problem because our big toe needs to bend every time we take a step.
Symptoms of Hallux Rigidus include pain and of course inability to bend the big toe. At first, this may be minor and aggravated by cold or damp weather. You may have trouble with certain activities and movements such as running or squatting. Inflammation of the joint can lead to swelling, redness, and difficulty wearing shoes. Eventually, bone spurs may occur, and the toe can become completely immobile.
Diagnosis requires a physical examination where your podiatrist will test the flexibility and range of motion in your joint. They may also take x-rays to check the progression of arthritis or look for bone spurs. Like most podiatric ailments, if caught early enough, Hallux Rigidus has some simple non-surgical solutions.
You guessed it, wearing the right shoes that don’t put undue pressure on or squeeze the toes can help keep your big toe moving. Orthotic devices to correct structural abnormalities, corticosteroid injections, and foot exercises or physical therapy are all conservative treatment methods that help stop the progression of this painful condition.
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The stiffer your big toe becomes, the less chance there is of keeping a full range of motion. If you feel that your big toe just isn’t the same as it used to be and is keeping you from living a healthy and active lifestyle call the FAAWC for an appointment today.