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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.

READ MORE: Osteoarthritis

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.

READ MORE: Footwear for Spring

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.

    Exercise is great for you, and it comes in so many forms: biking, walking, swimming, running, weightlifting, etc. For many people who struggle with foot and leg pain, however, exercise can be a terrible trial. One of the most common overuse injuries from exercise is shin splints. This is often used as a catch-all term for lower leg pain, but shin splints specifically refer to the chronic damage done to muscles, tissue, and bone through the stress of overuse.

READ MORE: Foot Health for Marathoners

The medical term for shin splints is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. This happens when a muscle is pulled away from the bone, causing micro-tears in the muscle and surrounding tissue that present as generalized pain. Sometimes pain can occur on the outside of the shin bone, and this is called anterior shin splints. Medial pain will present on the inner side of the leg and is more common.
Repetitive motion injuries such as ligament sprains or stress fractures only occur to ligaments or bones. Shin splints cause damage to multiple parts of the leg, meaning it is imperative for us to avoid them and treat them if they do occur. Shin splints are most common in runners, dancers, and the military, but can present during any sport or heavy activity.

Specific conditions and activities that can contribute to shin splints include:
-Starting with too much exercise, too quickly
-Changing terrain or surface (such as switching from flat routes to hills)
-Always exercising on hard surfaces
-Not allowing for body recovery time between strenuous activities
-Exercising without proper stretching
-Worn out shoes
-Flat feet or high-arches

    If you feel pain or tenderness, or see redness and swelling in your legs, use the RICE method. In case you forgot, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Stop all activity and do not resume until the pain has completely dissipated. Ice the front and sides of your shin while laying with your legs elevated above your heart. Compression socks can also help reduce swelling. Over-the-counter pain relievers may be taken in addition to RICE treatment.

READ MORE: What Does RICE Mean?

Once you have rested and the pain has subsided, it’s important to make sure shin splints don’t happen again. Change the intensity, frequency, or location of your workout to reduce strenuous surfaces or terrain. Have your running stride evaluated for potential imbalances and work to correct these. Replace your athletic shoes every 300-500 miles. If you have flat feet or high-arches, consider a support or orthotic to support important areas of the foot.
    If you have shin splints that reoccur even after these changes, it’s time to see a podiatrist. Stress fractures and compartment syndrome can both be mistaken for shin splints. Your podiatrist will perform an examination and take x-rays to rule out other causes. Often, small changes to your workout or working in lower-impact activities can help reduce injury and pain. The doctors at the FAAWC are here to help. Make an appointment today and learn how you can exercise free from the pain of shin splints.