Symptoms and Treatment Options for Big Toe Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus) - Dr. Jeffrey E McAlister
Dr. Jeffrey E McAlister / Foot Arthritis  / Symptoms and Treatment Options for Big Toe Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus)
woman with hallux rigidus or big toe arthritis

Symptoms and Treatment Options for Big Toe Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus)

The big toe plays an important role in standing, walking, jumping and many other daily activities. In fact, the big toe bears approximately one half of a person’s weight. All these activities make the big toe particularly more susceptible to developing arthritis or “wear and tear” of the joint.  

Big toe arthritis, also known as “hallux rigidus,” is the most common form of foot arthritis. This condition is most prevalent in adults between the ages of 30 and 60. It occurs at the base of the big toe, specifically at the MTP joint (metatarsophalangeal joint) a joint that is crucial in allowing you to bend your toe every time you take a step.  

Big toe arthritis is a progressive disease that may eventually lead to the loss of cartilage around the big toe, which in severe cases may lead to deformity.  

Symptoms of Big Toe Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus) 

The most frequently experienced symptom of big toe arthritis is an extreme pain in the base of the big toe. In many cases, it is this symptom that ultimately causes sufferers to seek medical treatment. However, additional symptoms may include: 

  • Swelling of the toe 
  • The formation of a bone spur or lump next to the MTP joint 
  • The formation of calluses under the big toe due to the abnormal shape of the toe 
  • Difficulty performing certain physical activities, especially those that require the toe to bend upward 

Treatment Options for Big Toe Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus) 

Treatment for big toe arthritis includes both non-surgical and surgical treatment options. Typically, non-surgical treatment options are first explored before considering surgery. The appropriate treatment method greatly depends on the severity of a person’s case. 

Non-Surgical Treatment Options 

Non-surgical treatment options for big toe arthritis or hallux rigidus may consist of the following: 

  • Footwear modifications: Orthotic inserts may be placed in shoes to add increased support to the big toe. If looking to purchase new shoes, it’s best to opt for shoes with stiff soles as these limits the motion or bending of the big toe, causing less pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen may be used to alleviate pain and swelling of the big toe.  
  • Cortisone injections: These injections take effect quicker and may provide longer-lasting relief. They may reduce both pain and swelling.  

Surgical Treatment Options 

Surgical treatment options are normally considered for patients when the cartilage near their MTP joint has worn away or when their toe joints are “bone-on-bone.” Surgeries used to treat the aftereffects of big toe arthritis may include: 

  • Cheilectomy: A procedure used to remove bone spurs from the base of the big toe that is caused by big toe arthritis.  
  • Great toe fusion (arthrodesis): A procedure that involves fusing the joints in the big toe together in a permanent position.  
  • Big toe joint replacement (arthroplasty): A procedure that involves removing and replacing the big toe joint with an artificial joint. This option is normally only used after all other options have been exhausted.  

If you’re suffering from big toe arthritis, please consider Dr. Jeffrey McAlister, as your foot and ankle surgeon. Dr. McAlister is very knowledgeable in treating several feet and ankle conditions, including big toe arthritis. Contact his office today at (602) 955-5700.  

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