Dealing with hammertoe can be frustrating and painful. While it’s not dangerous, per se, it can lead to other issues that exacerbate the condition if left untreated. Hammertoe can have several causes, some as simple as the kind of shoes you wear, while others are more complicated, like genetics.

Whatever the cause, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything that can be done to halt hammertoe. At North Central Texas Foot & Ankle in Decatur and Roanoke, Texas, our experienced providers are here to give you the best treatment and guidance possible. Before we answer the question of whether hammertoe can be halted, it’s important to understand the condition and its treatability.

Causes of hammertoe

When an imbalance between your toe muscles, ligaments, or tendons is present, it causes the affected toe to bend upward at your proximal interphalangeal, or middle, joint. The imbalance can be a result of several things, including having one toe that’s too long, a structural defect, ill-fitting shoes, toe trauma, or a neurological issue.

Risk factors for developing hammertoe include:

  • Age
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Sex
  • Toe length

Can hammertoe be halted?

The severity of your case of hammertoe is a direct determinant of whether it can be corrected. Noticing symptoms early and seeking help right away can increase your chances of being able to halt hammertoe using conservative treatments. Symptoms to look for include difficulty moving your toe, experiencing pain when doing so, difficulty walking, swelling and redness, or the development of calluses and corns on top of that toe.

If your toe is still flexible, conservative, nonsurgical treatment and correction is possible. One of our expert providers may recommend switching to roomier shoes to allow your toes to spread out and extend. Using orthotics or pads — which are good for relieving any discomfort and repositioning your toe — may be suggested, as well as taping or splinting. Certain foot stretches and exercises are great for treating hammertoe as well. Crumpling towels or picking up small objects such as marbles with your toes helps strengthen your muscles and correct the issue.

Unfortunately, if your toe is no longer flexible and becomes rigid, or prior conservative treatments aren’t working for you, surgical intervention may be necessary. Depending again on the severity of your case, one or more of three surgical procedures is performed:

  • Arthrodesis involves removing a portion of bone in your toe joint and inserting a pin or plate to hold the bones in place while they fuse together, allowing for full extension. 
  • Tendon lengthening, sometimes performed in combination with arthrodesis, releases the tendon, allowing for full extension and relieving pain.
  • Tendon transfer involves using tendons from the bottom of your toe and transferring them to the top in order to pull your affected joint into a straight position.

As soon as you notice discomfort or other symptoms, give our offices a call or request an appointment online. Samantha Childers, DPM and Ricky Childers, DPM can quickly diagnose your hammertoe and begin treatment. Don’t wait until complications arise. Contact North Central Texas Foot & Ankle today.

Jan 19th, 2021

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