The occurrence of hammertoe most often affects the three middle toes and can sometimes affect the baby toe, but the big toe is rarely affected. Curling toes are sometimes classified as hammertoes. Curling happens most frequently with the second toe.
Your doctor can diagnose hammertoes with a physical examination of your feet and inquiring about your symptoms.
Affected Toe issues from Hammertoe when left untreated
People with permanently bent toes may have difficulty walking, running, and changing direction. Eventually, severe cases may it difficult just to stand.
If the toes remain contracted for an extended period, it may be impossible to fix them without hammertoe correction surgery. If the abnormal bend of your toes has been going on for some time, you may need joint resection surgery to straighten the toe joint.
It is common for a patient with a sore foot to walk or move differently to avoid putting weight on the problematic area. This can lead to stress on other parts of the body, such as the knees, ankles, or back.
Frequently, the top of the toe joint will rub against the inside of the shoe, creating discomfort and can lead to blisters, corns, an open sore, calluses, or other damage to the soft tissues.
Types of Hammertoes
Hammertoe can affect two different joints of the toes, either the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP), which is the middle toe joint, or the distal interphalangeal joint (DIP), near the tip of the toe. Hammertoe is characterized by an elongated DIP joint.
Flexible Hammertoe: If you can still move your toe at the joint, it means you have a mild form of hammertoe. There should be a variety of treatment options, depending on the progress of your foot deformity.
Rigid Hammertoe: If the tendons in your toe get rigid, they press the joint out of alignment and you can’t move your toe. Hammertoe correction surgery to straighten the joints may be recommended.
Claw Toe: With claw toe, the toe bends upward at the joint where the bones of the foot and toe connect, downward at the middle PIP joint, and then downward at the DIP joint.
Leading Causes of Toe Middle Joint Pain
Uncomfortable shoes like high heels or footwear that’s too tight in the toe box are the leading causes of hammertoe. The wrong shoes can crowd your toes into a space so tight they can’t lie flat. Wearing shoes with pointed toes can also cause your toes to get progressively worse.
An injury in which you stub, jam or break a toe can make it more likely for that digit to develop hammertoe or mallet toe over time.
Muscle imbalance of the toes leads to instability, which can cause the toe to contract or tighten up. If left untreated, it may lead to chronic foot deformity.
Addressing Hammertoe Issues
Wearing well-fitting comfortable shoes with a roomy toe box is one of the easiest ways to treat a hammertoe deformity. Putting insoles or toe pads into your shoes may help reduce pain if your high arches have caused problems for your toes. For extreme cases a special shoe can be ordered.
Your doctor may suggest physical therapy or that you begin an exercise program to help you deal with your condition. But always avoid shoes that don’t fit properly.
If your physical examination shows that common procedures won’t help you, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure like joint fusion to get your toes back into a straight position.
There are even corticosteroid injections and anti-inflammatory medication for severe cases.
Toe Exercises for Hammertoe Prevention
In a seated position, with your bare foot try to grab and pick up a towel by scrunching your toes. Repeat 10 times to strengthen toe muscles.
Standing heel raise
Standing on flat feet, hold onto a chair and lift yourself up to your tiptoes, then lower yourself. Repeat 10 times for muscle balance.
One foot at a time, raise your foot and try to spread your toes as wide as possible. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
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