Have you ever suspected you have arthritis in your big toe joint? It is one of those conditions that slowly creeps up on you. You may be going about your business only to notice that your big toe joint hurts! You may end up limping around for an hour or even a few days and then it disappears only to reappear when you least expect it! What’s up with this? Well, it may be plain ol’arthitis!
Arthritis in the big toe (hallux) joint is known as "Hallux Limitus" or Hallux Rigidus" depending on whether it the motion in your toe is limited or not moving at all. Basically, how much arthritis you have puts you in either one of those categories. So here it how it works: Over the years, all of your joints wear down to some extent. We start to lose the cartilage, (this is the stuff covering the bones at the joint so the joint can glide smoothly). Once we have worn down enough cartilage, the bones at the joint start making bone on bone contact instead of cartilage on cartilage contact, and this causes pain. This bone on bone rubbing is not as smooth either and it limits the amount of movement at the joint. This is arthritis. As the amount of arthritis in the joint increases, the amount of pain in that joint increases as well!
How does it all start? I tell my patient that simply stubbing your toe, which most of us have done at some point or other, can accelerate the wearing down process. Many times, arthritis in the big toe joint shows up in people with other foot conditions, such as bunions, or flat feet or high arched feet simply because of how our bones line up in the feet. If they are not perfectly aligned, that joint will wear down quicker because it was not meant to work in that position.
What can be done about the pain? Once you have been diagnosed, your podiatrist will be able to tell you just how severe the arthritis in your big toe joint is and treatment will be based on that. Treatment could include anti-inflammatories, custom inserts, physical therapy, shoe alterations, padding, cortisone injections, and in the worst of cases, surgery. That being said, the sooner you see us about your big toe pain, the quicker we can slow down the damage being done to that joint and keep you moving!