If you have a toe that bends upward in the center so that it looks like a hammer, chances are you have hammertoe. Fortunately, this toe deformity can usually be treated without surgery. Here’s what you know about recognizing and treating hammertoe.
Common Symptoms of Hammertoe
Besides noting a bent or hammer-shaped toe, there are other symptoms. For example, you have calluses and corns from continual friction of a toe against a shoe.
Pain from wearing shoes, toe redness, inflammation and a burning sensation are also common symptoms of hammertoe. Open sores may even develop in more serious cases.
A hammertoe can be either flexible or stiff. Whether or not you need surgery depends on the flexibility of your affected toe. If your hammertoe is flexible, nonsurgical treatments can be effective.
- Strapping or splitting—This treatment involves using straps or splints that a podiatrist applies on your bent toe to realign it.
- Footwear changes—Don’t wear high heels, short shoes or those with pointed toes because this puts pressure on your toe. Comfortable shoes are those that are deep and have adequate room in a toe box.
- Orthotic devices—These are custom-made devices designed to be inserted in shoes that help manage imbalance with muscles and tendons. Wearing soft insoles can also be effective in relieving toe pressure.
- Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)—Over-the-counter medicines can help with swelling and pain.
- Corticosteriod shots—Sometimes injection therapy is helpful in managing inflammation and pain.
- Corns or felt pads—Use these to protect a protruding joint.
- Gentle toe exercises—If your toe isn’t in a fixed position, try some gentle exercises such as using your toes to grasp a towel. This can be effective in straightening and stretching small toe muscles.
If home treatments fail to give relief or if your hammertoe is fixed or rigid, surgery may be needed. This type of procedure usually entails a surgeon moving or cutting ligaments and tendons. In some cases, the bones on both sides of the joint may need to be fused together.
Patients typically go home the same as their procedure. Following surgery, your toe can be shorter, as well as stiff.
Seek professional medical care if your pain worsens, or if you find it hard to walk. You should also see a doctor if thick corns or blisters form on your toes. Your podiatrist can access your condition and provide the treatment that works best for you. Please contact us.