Hallux rigidus is a disorder of the joint located at the base of the big toe. It causes pain and stiffness in the joint, and with time it gets increasingly more difficult to bend the toe. Hallux rigidus is actually a form of degenerative arthritis that can be very troubling and even disabling, since we use the big toe whenever we walk, stoop down, climb up, or even stand.
Because hallux rigidus is a progressive condition, the toe’s motion continues to decrease as time goes on. As the problem advances, the toe’s range of motion gradually decreases until it potentially reaches the end stage of “rigidus,” in which the big toe becomes stiff, or what is sometimes called a “frozen joint.”
If you find it difficult to bend your toe up and down or find that you are walking on the outside of your foot because of pain in the toe, see your Southern Bone & Joint Specialists podiatrist right away. Early signs and symptoms include:
As the disorder gets more serious, additional symptoms may develop, including:
Common causes of hallux rigidus are faulty function (biomechanics) and structural abnormalities of the foot that can lead to osteoarthritis in the big toe joint. This type of arthritis results from “wear and tear” and often develops in people who have defects that change the way their foot and big toe functions. For example, those with fallen arches or excessive pronation (rolling in) of the ankles are often susceptible to developing hallux rigidus.
In some people, hallux rigidus can run in the family and is a result an inherited foot type that is prone to developing this condition. In other cases, it is associated with overuse and activities or jobs that increase the stress on the big toe, such as workers who often have to stoop or squat. It can also result from an injury, such as stubbing your toe, or it may be caused by inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Your Southern Bone & Joint Specialists foot and ankle surgeon can determine the cause of your hallux rigidus and recommend the best treatment.
In many cases, early treatment may prevent or postpone the need for surgery. Treatment for mild or moderate cases of hallux rigidus may include:
In some cases, surgery is the only way to eliminate or reduce pain. There are several types of surgery for treatment of hallux rigidus. In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary, depending on the procedure or procedures performed.