Imagine a machine full of gears and hinges. All those these moving parts need to be able to rotate, bend, and twist smoothly to function well. When they become stiff and rusted, the machine slows down and struggles. Your body has its own moving parts that need to be flexible to function well. When problems like hallux limitus stiffen your joints, you suffer a loss of mobility.
Hallux limitus is a name for progressive osteoarthritis in the first joint of your big toe. Because this joint is a necessary part in the ball of the foot, you need it to glide smoothly and allow your toe to bend so you can push off the ground when you step. When the protective tissues in the joint break down, your bones grind against each other. The more they grind, the more damage is incurred, causing pain and stiffness. If allowed to progress, the condition may eventually deteriorate into hallux rigidus, or complete stiffness in the big toe with bone spurs.
A variety of issues can cause the limited motion in your toe. An injury to the joint may damage the cartilage and other protective layers, allowing the bones to rub against each other. Genetics can sometimes play a role, predisposing you to arthritis or foot shapes that increase your risks for developing the problem. Faulty biomechanics that strain the big toe may also contribute to the issue over time.
The more hallux limitus has a chance to progress, the more painful it becomes. The toe joint will feel worse when you put weight on it or try to bend it upward. It will feel stiff and difficult to move, and may be sensitive to cold temperatures. You may find it uncomfortable to wear certain shoes, particularly ones that shift weight onto the ball of the foot, like high heels. Super-flexible shoes like flip flops and ballet flats may be uncomfortable as well. You may also notice swelling and redness around the joint.
Reliving the Pain, Slowing the Progression
Since pain in this first big toe joint is a symptom of several different conditions, you’ll need to have your problem accurately diagnosed to treat it effectively. Dr. Noah Levine will carefully examine your joint movement and range of motion. Our staff may also obtain X-rays to check for visible bone damage and rule out other possible issues. Then we can put together a plan to manage the hallux limitus.
Your foot will need to be stabilized and its motion controlled to prevent the problem from worsening. You may need stiffer soles in your shoes to prevent unnecessary motion in the big toe. Custom orthotics can add stiffness and help control your foot overall to avoid the movement that causes pain. You may need pads in your shoe to protect your foot from friction and rubbing as well. Ice the joint regularly to decrease inflammation and swelling, relieving some of the discomfort. We may also recommend anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy may help you maintain some range of motion as well.
Extreme cases of hallux limitus that have already deteriorated into the “rigidus” variety may need surgery to manage the joint pain. Don’t wait for your foot to reach that point to seek help, though. When you first notice symptoms, contact Absolute Foot Care Specialists in Las Vegas right away to prevent the problem from progressing. Use the online request form or call (702) 839-2010 to reach us for an appointment.