Hammertoes can cause patients to endure joint pain in their toes, corns or calluses on the top of the joints. These individuals can even find themselves having a hard time walking. The symptoms are progressive, meaning that without proper treatment, they tend to get worse.
But where do hammertoes come from, what causes the source of pain, what are some other symptoms, and what treatment options are available?
We are the Foot Specialists of Birmingham, and we are here to answer your questions and fill you in on everything there is to know about hammertoes.
What Are Hammertoes?
Hammertoes—an oddly named deformity that reflects the way it looks: the toes of those experiencing the condition have joints stuck in an upward position, which kind of looks like a hammer.
Not to be confused with claw toes or mallet toes, which affect the first and third joints on your toes. Hammertoes are a condition in which the second joints (the proximal interphalangeal joint) on one or more of your toes are pointing up when they should normally lay flat. The bend is in the second toe joint for hammertoes, also known as the middle toe joint.
What Causes Hammertoes?
Hammertoes occur when the tendons in your feet pull your toe in an abnormal way. This is caused by weakness in your leg or foot muscles, increasing pressure on the tendon and joints. Like we previously mentioned, your body seeks to protect your toes from this unusual stretching by forming corns or calluses, which can also cause pain or discomfort. Without proper treatment, the condition could worsen as time progresses. Hammertoes can, unfortunately, get to the point where patients can no longer move the toe(s).
Causes of hammertoes attributed to weakened muscle balance in your toes include:
- Too-narrow, ill-fitting shoes, with little to no arch support. Those who wear high heels and unsupportive shoes are more likely to develop hammertoes.
- Neuromuscular diseases and diabetes can cause an increased risk for hammertoe complications.
- Injury. It’s rare, but trauma-affected toes can develop hammertoes.
What Are All of the Symptoms of Hammertoes?
First, you must know that there are three stages of hammertoes:
#1: Flexible hammertoes: Hammertoes that still have full mobility.
#2: Semi-rigid: Hammertoes that have become stiff
#3: Rigid hammertoes: Hammertoes that can no longer move (due to tightening in the soft tissues and tendons).
- Rigid joints in your bent toes
- Pain at the top of your bent toe or in the ball of your foot
- Corns and calluses at the top of a bent joint in your toe
- Redness, inflammation, or a burning sensation in your toes, the joints of your toes, or your feet
- Restricted or painful motion in your toe joint
- Swelling of the joints in your toes
- Open sores on or around your toes
Diagnosis and Treatment For Hammertoes
Hammertoes are typically easy to recognize by your general practitioner, but you may also need to see a podiatrist for an accurate diagnosis. At the podiatrist, you will receive a physical examination, and your toes may need an x-ray.
Options for hammertoe treatment vary on the severity of the condition. Those who may not need surgery may be given custom shoe inserts or orthotic devices to control their foot’s function. Other options include, tape to change the muscle imbalance, insulating padding to decrease pressure on the hammertoe, or anti-inflammatory drugs or shots to relieve pain.
Your healthcare provider may recommend surgery if the previous options have not proven effective. This is especially true if your hammertoe pain is so severe that it interrupts your daily activities. If you do have surgery, the surgeon will likely align the joint and remove the toe’s bony prominence, or they may correct your toe’s position by inserting a steel pin.
If you believe you have pain and discomfort from hammertoes, we can quickly diagnose you and provide the right treatment options. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us or make an appointment at one of our two locations in Birmingham, Alabama!