What are hammertoes? Medically speaking, hammertoe comes from a muscle and ligament imbalance near the toe joint. This imbalance causes the middle toe joint to bend and become stuck in a crooked position. Your shoes will rub and irritate the top of your bent toe, and walking can be uncomfortable.
There are some relief techniques you can try before seeing your doctor. These do help relieve pain and discomfort.
• Wear shoes that are wide and broad across the toes. Make sure there is at least one-half inch of space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoes.
• Avoid heels higher than 2 inches.
• Wear the right shoes for your activities.
• Purchase non-medicated hammertoe pads. They fit around the toe joint and relieve painful pressure.
• Massage your toes gently to relieve pain.
• Use ice packs on your hammer toe to reduce painful swelling.
What Can a Podiatrist Do For Me?
Hammertoes are often found on the baby toe that curls rather than flatten. The middle three toes are usually affected, and women are more likely to get pain from hammertoes than men – this is because of women’s footwear. If you have diabetes or poor circulation, you have a high risk of infection and foot ulcers in addition to hammertoe.
There are two types of hammertoes – flexible and rigid. A flexible hammertoe can still move at the joint, but if you have a rigid hammertoe, the tendons in the toe press against the joint out of alignment. If you are experiencing rigid hammertoe, you will need surgery.
Your podiatrist will examine and x-ray your toe to assess the extent of the deformity. Several procedures can help with hammertoes.
• Drugs that reduce inflammation can ease pain and swelling.
• Cortisone injections relieve acute pain.
• A podiatrist may prescribe a custom-made insert to wear inside your shoe. Inserts may reduce pain.
• Over the counter, metatarsal pads placed correctly may help.
• Exercises are available to help restore foot muscle balance.
• Splinting the toe may help if the hammertoe is in the early stages.
Types of Surgery
One surgery method is to remove a small piece of bone at the involved joint and to realign the toe joint. If you have a more severe hammertoe problem, you may need more complicated surgery.
Another type of surgery is called proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint fusion.
The toe is straightened and stabilized by fusing the two bones. PIP surgery is highly invasive and is done by cutting the ends of the bone in the joint and wiring them together.
In a newer surgery, rods and screws are permanently implanted in the toe. This method holds the toe stable and in a steady position.
Less invasive surgical procedures used include cutting the bone and using minimally invasive incisions. Addressing the soft tissue rather than cutting the bone is also an option done by podiatrists.
Tenotomy is cutting the tendon, and releasing the tendons is still another surgery method that is still being researched.
Don’t suffer. There are options.