Hallux Rigidus

Hallux rigidus is a disorder of the joint located at the base of the big toe. It causes pain and stiffness in the joint, and with time, it gets increasingly more difficult to bend the toe. Because hallux rigidus is a progressive condition, the toe’s motion decreases as time goes on. In its earlier stage, when motion of the big toe is only somewhat limited, the condition is called hallux limitus. But as the problem advances, the toe’s range of motion gradually decreases until it potentially reaches the end stage of rigidus, in which the big toe becomes stiff or what is sometimes called a frozen joint.

Early signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the big toe during use (walking, standing, bending, etc.)

  • Pain and stiffness aggravated by cold, damp weather

  • Difficulty with certain activities (running, squatting)

  • Swelling and inflammation around the joint

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As the disorder gets more serious, additional symptoms may develop, including:

  • Pain, even during rest

  • Difficulty wearing shoes because bone spurs (overgrowths) develop

  • Dull pain in the hip, knee or lower back due to changes in the way you walk

  • Limping (in severe cases)

The sooner this condition is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Therefore, the best time to see a foot and ankle surgeon is when you first notice symptoms. If you wait until bone spurs develop, your condition is likely to be more difficult to manage.

In diagnosing hallux rigidus, the surgeon will examine your feet and move the toe to determine its range of motion. X-rays help determine how much arthritis is present as well as to evaluate any bone spurs or other abnormalities that may have formed.  In some cases, surgery is the only way to eliminate or reduce pain. Several types of surgery are available for treatment of hallux rigidus.

 

In selecting the procedure or combination of procedures for your particular case, the foot and ankle surgeon will take into consideration the extent of your deformity based on the x-ray findings, your age, your activity level, and other factors. The length of the recovery period will vary depending on the procedure or procedures performed.