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When Arthritis Hits Your Big Toe

Tens of millions of adults suffer from some sort of arthritis. Arthritis is a general term for any sort of pain or stiffness in a joint. When it hits your big toe, movement can become severely limited. If you were to ask anyone with arthritis in their big toe, you’d learn that

  • it really hurts to bend their toe – if they can bend it at all
  • exercises like lunging and squatting are just about impossible
  • there are only one or two styles of shoes that are comfortable to wear
  • any kind of pressure on the toe, even touching it, can be very painful

Have you got big toe arthritis?

When talking about big toe arthritis, it’s helpful to know some medical terms that podiatrist Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm might use. The first thing to know is the word “hallux,” which is the medical name for the big toe. There are two common stages of big toe arthritis:

Hallux limitus – we use this term when arthritis is just beginning to set in. Symptoms in your big toe might include

  • Swelling of the joint at the base of the toe
  • Pain and stiffness when you use the joint
  • Limited range of motion

Hallux rigidus is the name for a more advanced stage of big toe arthritis. Dr. Wilhelm would suspect that you’ve progressed from hallux limitus to hallux rigidus when

  • Your joint hurts even when you’re resting and you can’t move it at all.
  • It hurts to put on shoes, possibly due to the development of painful bone spurs.

You’re forced to change the way you walk to avoid pain in your toe. Altering your gait can mean future trouble for your knees, hips, and back.

Treat it early to avoid surgery

By the time your arthritis reaches the rigidus stage, surgery may be your only treatment option. Dr. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center is an expert foot surgeon and can certainly relieve your pain through surgery. However, for less invasive treatment options, it’s best to make an appointment as soon as symptoms begin. Hallux limitus may be treated with shoe modifications, orthotic inserts, and medications that reduce inflammation and slow the progress of arthritis.

Contact us online with your questions about toe arthritis or toe surgery. You may also call us at our office in Centreville, VA at (703) 996-3000.

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