Hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis of the great toe. It refers to a stiff or frozen big toe that causes pain or is unable to bend. Hallux Rigidus may also be referred to as Hallux Limitus, turf toe or simply a stiff big toe. There is no singular cause for hallux rigidus, though diagnosis and treatment are usually fairly simple. It is a progressive affliction, meaning it grows worse over time, so it is important to try and address it as early as possible. If left untreated the severity of the condition could alter your posture and walking patterns, leading to issues with the knees, hips or even the back.
The most common symptoms of hallux rigidus are:
● Big toe pain
● Big toe stiffness
● Discomfort when wearing shoes
● Swelling or inflammation of the big toe
● Limited range of motion
● Difficulty walking
● Calluses or bone spurs
It is also not uncommon to notice an increase in foot pain and stiffness when the weather is cold or
damp. While these symptoms are not life threatening, they can be extremely uncomfortable and
can make simple tasks like walking, standing, or putting on shoes unnecessarily difficult.
Causes of Hallux Rigidus
While there is not a singular cause for hallux rigidus, there are a few common factors that can
contribute to the development of this condition. Some of these are:
- Genetic Foot Structure
- Overuse (spending long hours on your feet)
- Stubbing or spraining the toe
- Old Fracture
- Restrictive footwear
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Regardless of what led to your hallux rigidus, diagnosis is usually a quick and painless process. Your doctor will often obtain an X-Ray of your foot, perform a minor physical exam to determine how much range of motion has been lost, then ask you a few questions regarding the intensity of your pain and the frequency of your symptoms.
Conservative measures will initially be taken to try and avoid the need for surgery. The specifics
of your treatment will vary depending on your symptoms and the preferences of your doctor,
though some common options include:
● Physical therapy and mobility exercises
● Change in footwear
● Orthotics (Shoe inserts)
● Steroid injections
● Inserts like pads and braces to limit the movement of the toe
If these treatment options are attempted and the pain of your hallux rigidus is still interfering with your life, surgery will be the next option. There are a variety of surgeries that can be performed to help with hallux rigidus, and your doctor will choose the procedure that is best suited for you based on the nature of your symptoms and the severity of your case. Surgery can vary from removing surrounding bone spurs, to replacing the joint, to eliminating motion and pain in the joint. You and your doctor will come together to develop the best surgical plan for you.
Depending on the procedure that your surgeon performs, recovery can take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. In most cases you will be asked to keep pressure off the injured foot until the surgeon decides it is safe for you to walk, likely in a boot or a splint to wear as an extra source of protection for 2-3 weeks. Once you are cleared to move to normal shoe gear, your surgeon will progress you forward appropriately. Typically people are back to light activity within 4e weeks and full activity by 6-8 weeks.
If you have any questions regarding what you think might be hallux rigidus, or you would like to speak to a physician regarding your personal symptoms, please feel free to contact us. It is often easy to overlook a condition like hallux rigidus, but we know just how painful and inconvenient it can be. We look forward to offering you the best possible care for your condition and helping you get back to a normal, pain free life