From genetics to snug shoes, the cause of a hammertoe varies. What remains certain is early detection as the key to speedy recovery.
A hammertoe is that unusual bend in your third, fourth, or little toe. With time, it can worsen, but by recognizing the issue early on, you can lessen the likelihood of surgery. We understand — you want to get back on your feet sooner than later. That’s why Dr. Cox has outlined his pro-tips for healing, so you can return to life, uninterrupted.
The main culprit develops from an irregular amount of muscle in the toe. This imbalance presses on your toe’s tendons and joints, causing “contracture,” a deformity generated by the hardening and shortening of tissues in this part of the foot.
Cases of heredity, arthritis, and trauma (including too tight of shoes) most often initiate this “imbalance.”
Why heredity, though? In our most recent post on bunions (read here), we discussed how poor foot mechanics can lead to defective development in this area of the body. Parents are capable of passing these mechanics onto their children, which is why, more often than not, bunions go hand in hand with hammertoes.
In a hammertoe’s earliest stages, your toe is still flexible enough for your podiatrist to fix through nonsurgical means.
However, as time passes, the tissues in your toe harden. The symptoms — pain, irritation, corns, calluses, redness, and inflammation — intensify. At this point, your only option is surgery.
When you visit your local podiatrist, he or she will take x-rays of your toe and access the severity of the situation.
Based on this, there are several different treatment options:
● Padding and Taping, “Padding” means to cover the toe, all to minimize the pain from its surroundings; “Taping” intends to alter the imbalance created around your toe’s ligaments and joints, as well as reduce pressure and pain.
● An Orthotic Device, “Orthotics” are manufactured devices that help support and shape your foot for its healthiest. In the case of a hammertoe, your podiatrist will create a custom shoe insert specific to your foot. This will work to reduce your symptoms and stop the deformity from worsening.
● Medications, In some cases, cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory drugs work well to reduce pain and swelling.
● Surgery, This is only necessary for extreme circumstances. Depending on the severity of the hammertoe, your podiatrist will evaluate and develop the best plan for your unique condition.
Prevention is key.
As always, prevention and self-care are the best medicine to curb any initial issue. What Dr. Cox suggests is:
● Steering away from shoes that are tight or come to a sharp point at the toes.
● Grab a pair of shoes that support the individual needs of your feet. (Those who suffer from flat feet especially need this to prevent hammertoes.)
● Wearing custom orthotics created by your foot specialist.
As we’ve mentioned before, it’s important to a handle a hammertoe earlier than later. But more significantly, it’s paramount to identify if the problem is a torn ligament (and sometimes that happens).
In this case, the steps towards healing are much different than a hammertoe. Learn what the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons®, an organization in which we’re a member, has to say about this condition here.