Have You Talked to a Podiatrist about Your Arthritic Big Toe?

Sometimes, due to arthritis, the toe joint in the big toe loses it range of motion. Otherwise known as hallux limitus, this condition is rather painful, as the joint in the big toe is used for a number of activities. These activities include stooping, walking, standing, and climbing. Because this condition is progressive, the motion of the toe continues to lessen, leading to a condition known as hallux rigidus,or complete immobilisation of the joint.

How the Condition Develops

Hallux limituscan develop for one of a number of reasons. For example, faulty biomechanics of the foot, such as abnormal pronation, can trigger the condition. In turn, extra stress is placed on the big toe and its joint, thereby compressing the joint cartilage and damaging it. In other instances, the condition results from a previous injury to the big toe. For example, if you dropped a heavy item on your toe or stubbed it, hallux limitus may eventually emerge.

Inflammatory Arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis, such as gouty arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can lead to an arthritic big toe as well. The arthritis often develops after an injury to the joint or a repetitive strain.  If you wear shoes that are too tight or regularly wear shoes with high heels, you can also experience hallux limitus.


Some of the symptoms associated with hallux limitusinclude the following:

  • Stiffness and pain in the big toe when bearing weight on it, including when bending, standing, stooping, or walking
  • Problems with certain activities such as squatting or running
  • Difficulties wearing shoes with high heels
  • Inflammation and swelling around at the site of the big toe
  • Notable stiffness and pain when the weather is damp or cold

Treating the Condition

Only a podiatrist in Redcliffe can make a diagnosis of an arthritic big toe and recommend a plan of treatment. Depending on the severity of the condition and the individual case, a treatment plan may involve one or more of the following actions:

  • Wearing orthotics to assist in range of motion and lower the pain
  • Making changes in footwear
  • Taking medicationssuch as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat the inflammation and pain
  • Injecting the joint with corticosteroids to lessen the pain and inflammation
  • Practicing physical therapy to provide interim relief

Scheduling Surgery

If the pain continues after a course of treatment, the doctor may have to recommend surgery. Several procedures are available, depending on the extent of the condition. In determining a procedure, the doctor factors in the degree of the deformity, based on the patient’s age, x-rays, CT scans, and clinical presentation, including the quality of motion and range of motion of the joint in the big toe.

As you can see, hallux limitusis not confined to specific symptoms or treatments. Each patient case is different and therefore, this condition must be treated on a case-by-case basis.