Hallux rigidus, commonly known as hallux limitus or even “stiff big toe,” is a type of degenerative arthritis that primarily affects the joint located at the base of the big toe. This condition causes pain and a large amount of stiffness in the big toe. This pain and stiffness slowly increases over time as the toe becomes more and more rigid and hard to bend.
In most cases, hallux rigidus has an unknown cause. Those who suffer from defects of the foot like pronation (a condition where the foot has rolled inward due to walking) or fallen arches also tend to suffer from stiff big toes.
People suffering from hallux rigidus typically deal with symptoms including pain and stiffness in the big toe while the foot is being used or being exposed to cold weather. Other symptoms include inflammation, swelling, and redness surrounding the joint, or even dull pain in the hip, knee, or lower back. Limping is another common symptom of a stiff big toes.
Your doctor is able to diagnose hallux rigidus by testing the range of motion in the joint of your big toe. X-rays are also able to detect if there is an abnormality within the bone or bone spur development.
Those suffering from this condition can find treatment with custom orthotic devices for shoes or physical therapy. Other options for treatment may include anti-inflammatory medications or corticosteroid injections.
In most cases, surgery is typically not necessary. If however, surgery is needed to help treat hallux rigidus, it typically involves shaving bone spurs (ostephyts) that have begun to form around or on the joint. Fusing the joint or performing a joint replacement is also a typical surgery to help treat hallux rigidus.
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