Hallux Rigidus: What To Do When Your Big Toe Bothers You

While Hallux Rigidus may sound like a spell out of a Harry Potter movie, it is, in fact, a condition that affects the joint located at the end of the big toe. The increasing pain you are experiencing in your foot as you move through your daily activities each day could, in fact, be caused by just one digit on your foot. So what is this condition, and how do you go about fixing the problem? 

Hallux Rigidis Explained

'Hallux' is the Latin term for the toe, and 'rigidis' is Latin for rigid. Therefore, this condition literally translates to rigid toe or stiff toe. Having a stiff toe causes pain because there is a lot of pressure put on this part of the foot whenever you stand, climb, and even walk. This explains why the pain in your foot progressively worsens during the course of the day until you are in extreme pain by the end of it.

Hallux Rigidis is a part of the degenerative arthritis family. It often occurs as a by-product of another foot condition going untreated. People who have fallen arches, for example, will often end up with hallux rigidis because of the way they walk to compensate for their arch issues. This puts extra pressure on the toe joint, which then degenerates faster than normal. As the toe joint begins to fail, at first, the toe becomes limited in its function. But over time, this limited motion slows up until no motion happens at all. At this stage, hallux rigidis has fully taken over the toe joint.

Hallux Rigidus Diagnosed

There are a number of symptoms that will indicate you are experiencing degeneration in your toe joint. This includes:

  • Pain in the toe area that gets progressively worse through the course of the day.
  • An increase in toe swelling during cold or damp weather.
  • Continual difficulty doing exercises that put pressure on the toe area. Running and squats are examples of these.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a trip to your podiatrist is the best way to professionally diagnose your issue.

While a podiatrist can't wave a magic wand to instantly fix the problem, they can make recommendations about how to lessen the pain hallux rigidis is causing you. Treatment of this condition includes anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling, orthotic devices to correct the way you walk and take pressure off the toe, or steroid injections to remove the pain. Whichever treatment you allow your podiatrist to try, there are options to take the pain away. It's just up to you to take the first step of making an appointment with the podiatrist.