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Hallux Rigidus


What is it?

“Hallux” is the big toe, and “rigidus” shows that the toe is rigid and hard to move. It is is a disorder of the joint located at the base of the big toe and is a type of degenerative arthritis.

As we use the big toe whenever we walk, stoop down, climb up, or even stand, this disorder can be extremely disabling. It is often confused with a bunion, which affects the same joint, but they are, in fact, very different. It is a progressive condition, and is sometimes called a “frozen joint.”

What can cause it?

Some common causes of hallux rigidus are faulty functioning and structural abnormalities of the foot that can lead to osteoarthritis in the big toe joint. This can develop in people who have changed the way their foot and big toe function. For example, people with fallen arches or over rolling in of the ankles are susceptible to developing hallux rigidus.

It can be hereditary, can be due to overuse, or the result of an injury. Sometimes, it may be caused by inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Some early signs and symptoms include pain and stiffness in the big toe when in use, or if aggravated by cold and damp weather. In addition, if you are having difficulty with activities such as running or squatting, this may be a sign. You may see swelling and inflammation around the joint.

As the disorder gets more serious, additional symptoms may develop, such as pain during rest, difficulty wearing shoes as bone spurs develop, a duller pain in the hips, knees, or lower back, and limping.

What can I do to alleviate it?

Hallux Rigidus is easier to treat if caught early. Therefore, the best time to see a specialist is when you first notice symptoms.

In diagnosing hallux rigidus, our team will examine your feet and move the toe to determine its range of motion. X-rays MAY help determine how much arthritis is present as well as to evaluate any bone spurs or other abnormalities that may have formed.

In many cases, early treatment may prevent or postpone the need for surgery in the future. Some treatments our chiropodists will review include shoe advice or modifications, orthotic devices, medications, injection therapy, and physical therapy.