The base of the big toe is an important joint as it bends every time a person takes step. The stiffness in the joint may make it painful and difficult to walk. This joint is known as metatarsophalangeal or MTP joint. Sometimes, a bone spur or overgrowth developed on the top of the bone prevents the toe from bending while walking. This condition of a stiff big toe can occur from numerous of different reasons.
1. Pain in the joint when you push-off on toes while walking
2. Swelling around the joint
3. A bump developed on the top of the joint
4. Stiffness in the big toe that makes it difficult to bend the toe up or down
You should consult a doctor if there is difficulty in bending the toe up or down, or you walk on the outside of foot because of pain in the toe. Stiff big toe joint is easy to treat if diagnosed early.
The doctor may examine the foot and look for signs of bone spurs. They may move around the toe to determine the mobility of the toe without pain. X-rays are helpful with diagnosis and staging the degree.
Non-surgical treatment includes anti-inflammatories and modification in shoe gear as well as orthotics with modifications. This supports the foot while walking and reduces the bending of the big toe.
Cheilectomy: The bone spurs and a portion of the foot bone is removed to make room for toe to bend. This surgery is recommended for mild or moderate cases and is believed to provide long-term relief to the patients. This is the quickest recovery but the patient may need another procedure in a few years.
Arthrodesis or fusion of the joint: This involves removing the cartilage and use pins, screws or plate to fix the joint to a permanent position. Though the patient is not able to bend the toe at all but is primarily done for pain relief, the procedure is believed to be the most reliable in severe cases.
Arthroplasty: In older patients, joint replacement surgery is the only option. The joint surfaces are removed and an artificial joint is implanted. This relieves pain and helps to preserve the motion of the joint. This may also be an option for patients who need to retain some motion within the joint.
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