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Arthritis of the Big Toe: Why It's Important to Treat Hallux Rigidus

Feb 13, 2024
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Your big toe hurts, but you keep pushing it off, thinking it’s going to get better on its own. But it won’t get better and could cause bigger problems if you let it go. Find out why it’s important to treat hallux rigidus.

You like to walk, right?

Or more accurately, even if you don’t routinely go for long walks, you probably like the ability to move from one place to another under your own power.

So if your big toe hurts, don’t ignore it. Hallux rigidus, or arthritis of the big toe, starts with just a little pain but can progress so that walking or even standing is unbearable.

The point? Get it treated! Our expert team at Austin Foot & Ankle Institute in Austin and Cedar Park, Texas, can help. Here’s more about why it’s important to treat hallux rigidus.

What’s hallux rigidus?

Hallux (big toe) rigidus (rigid) is a condition where your big toe’s range of motion is severely limited or completely frozen due to arthritis in the toe. The cartilage in the joint where your big toe meets your foot wears away, leaving bone rubbing against bone — which is painful.

The condition usually results from wear-and-tear on the toe over the years. With every step you take, your toes bear the weight of your body. These repetitive motions shift the bones and tissues at the front of your feet, resulting in swelling and stiffness.

Injuries and inflammatory diseases such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis can also contribute to hallux rigidus.

Symptoms include pain and stiffness in your big toe (which can get worse depending on the weather), swelling, bunions, and calluses on top of the toe.

How’s it treated?

Once diagnosed with hallux rigidus, you have several treatment options. The first and best course of action is to wear comfortable shoes that provide support and a large toe box to take pressure off your big toe.

A rocker sole or custom orthotics can also hold your toe so it doesn’t have to bend when you walk, thus easing your pain.

Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, soaking your feet in warm water, and corticosteroid injections can help.

If your pain worsens, you may need surgery. Your doctor realigns the bones at the front of your foot to restore mobility and relieve pain.

What happens if it’s left untreated?

Hallux rigidus is a progressive disease, so it gets worse without treatment. That means not only causing ongoing foot problems — eventually, you’re unable to wear shoes, stand, or walk — but also affecting other parts of your body.

Without realizing it, you start to walk in a way that minimizes your pain but can cause your toes, legs, and hips to become misaligned. That leads to pain in your knees, hips, and lower back.

If you’re experiencing pain in either of your big toes, let our professionals at Austin Foot & Ankle Institute take a look and recommend treatment. To schedule an appointment, call one of our three Austin-area locations or book online today.