Hallux Rigidus

Definition

Hallux rigidus is an arthritic condition often leading to pain and stiffness within the big toe joint.  This condition is recognized when there is decreased motion in the joint causing a gradual wearing away of the smooth surface (cartilage) of the joint.

Symptoms
The symptoms are gradually progressive and increase in severity with increased activity. Difficulty walking up and down stairs, running or even walking can occur.  Usually it is more difficult to bend the big toe in an upward direction as the problem advances.

As the disorder progresses, the movement of the great toe will decrease and bony growth around the joint develop.

Causes
There are different causes of Hallux Rigidus including trauma, biomechanics and your foot structure.  For instance, people with a flat 1st metatarsal head are more likely to experience jamming of the great toe joint as opposed to a 1st metatarsal head that is round in shape.  Activity level also plays a role.  The average person takes over 5000 steps per day.  With each step you take you put up to two times your body weight upon your feet.  The more motion across a predisposed joint, the more likely jamming and a wearing away of the joints cartilage will occur.

Diagnosis
Clinical diagnosis by your Podiatric Foot and Ankle Surgeon involves a detailed history and physical examination.  Biomechanical evaluation of the great toe joint along with x-rays can diagnose the grade or severity of the condition.  However, the longer the condition is present, the greater likelihood there is that there will be damage within the joint and the development of bone spurs or pieces of bone within the joint.

Treatment

  • Non-Surgical Treatment: These include a modification of shoes, oral anti-inflammatory medication or custom inserts made by your foot and ankle surgeon to reduce the stress across the affected joint.
  • Surgical Treatment: The severity of the condition will determine the level of surgical intervention.  If little joint damage is detected then the excess bone may need to be removed.  More extensive joint damage may require a procedure to increase the amount of joint space or replacement of the entire joint (implant).

Your Podiatric Foot and Ankle Surgeon will review all aspects of your condition, including the procedure and post-operative period, in order to return you to a more normal lifestyle.