A hammertoes occurs from a muscle and ligament imbalance around the toe joint which causes the middle joint of the toe to bend and become stuck in this position. The most common complaint with hammertoes is rubbing and irritation on the top of the bent toe. Toes that may curl rather than buckle, most commonly the baby toe, are also considered hammertoes. It can happen to any toe. Women are more likely to get pain associated with hammertoes than men because of shoe gear. Hammertoes can be a serious problem in people with diabetes or poor circulation. People with these conditions should see a doctor at the first sign of foot trouble.
Hammer toe results from shoes that don?t fit properly or a muscle imbalance, usually in combination with one or more other factors. Muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. If the toe is bent and held in one position long enough, the muscles tighten and cannot stretch out. Some other causes are diabetes, arthritis, neuromuscular disease, polio or trauma.
Symptoms of a hammertoe are usually first noticed as a corn on the top of the toe or at the tip which produces pain with walking or wearing tight shoes. Most people feel a corn is due to a skin problem on their toes, which in fact, it is protecting the underlying bone deformity. A corn on the toe is sometimes referred to as a heloma dura or heloma durum, meaning hard corn. This is most common at the level of the affected joint due to continuous friction of the deformity against your shoes.
A hammertoe is usually diagnosed with a physical inspection of your toe. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, may be ordered if you have had a bone, muscle, or ligament injury in your toe.
Non Surgical Treatment
Conservative treatment is limited to accommodation, not correction, of the deformity, though some patients find the relief they can get from these options to be more than enough to put off or even avoid surgery. These include better Footwear. Shoe gear with a wider toe box and higher volume causes less friction to the toes. Toe Braces and Strapping. Some toe braces and strapping techniques take some pressure off the toes during gait. Custom molded orthotics can redistribute the forces through the tendons that control the toe, lessening the pain and extent of the deformity.The calluses on the toe and the ball hammertoe of the foot can be shaved occasionally to reduce some pain and pressure, although they will return due to the constant deformity.
Joint resection procedures involves removing part of one of the two small joints of the toe directly underneath where the digit is crooked. The purpose is to make room for the toe to be re-positioned flat or straight. Because hammer toes become rigid or fixed with time, removing the joint becomes the only option when the knuckle is stiff. Its important to understand that this procedure does not involve the joint of the ball of the foot, rather the a small joint of the toe. Medical terminology for this procedure is called a proximal interphalangeal joint arthroplasty or a distal interphalangeal joint arthroplasty, with the latter involving the joint closer to the tip of the toe.
In addition to wearing proper shoes and socks, walking often and properly can prevent foot injury and pain. The head should be erect, the back straight, and the arms relaxed and swinging freely at the side. Step out on the heel, move forward with the weight on the outside of the foot, and complete the step by pushing off the big toe. Exercises specifically for the toe and feet are easy to perform and help strengthen them and keep them flexible. Helpful exercises include the following. Raise and curl the toes 10 times, holding each position for a count of five. Put a rubber band around both big toes and pull the feet away from each other. Count to five. Repeat 10 times. Pick up a towel with the toes. Repeat five times. Pump the foot up and down to stretch the calf and shin muscles. Perform for 2 or 3 minutes.
Overpronation is a term which is used more and more frequently by runners and exercisers these days, but what is overpronation and is it bad? Overpronation is excessive pronation of the feet when walking and running, and it can place people at risk of developing foot problems. Knowing the degree to which you pronate is important in order to select the correct footwear and exercise shoes. If you pronate excessively you could be placing an excessive strain on your feet, however overpronators can also place an excessive strain on the ankles, legs, knees, hips and lower back. Runners often claim to be an overpronator or even an underpronator or supinator. These terms may very well be viewed in a negative light when they really are not a problem at all. On the other hand people may be overpronators and not even know about it and could be at a high risk of developing a musculoskeletal problem.
Over-pronation is very prominent in people who have flexible, flat feet. The framework of the foot begins to collapse, causing the foot to flatten and adding additional stress to other parts of the foot. Therefore over-pronation can often lead to a case of Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Metatarsalgia, Post-tib Tendonitis and/or Bunions. There are many causes of flat feet. Obesity, pregnancy or repetitive pounding on a hard surface can weaken the arch leading to over-pronation. People with flat feet often do not experience discomfort immediately, and some never suffer from any discomfort at all. However, when symptoms develop and become painful, walking becomes awkward and causes increased strain on the feet and calves.
With over pronation, sufferers are most likely to experience pain through the arch of the foot. A lack of stability is also a common complaint. Over pronation also causes the foot to turn outward during movement at the ankle, causing sufferers to walk along the inner portion of the foot. This not only can deliver serious pain through the heel and ankle, but it can also be the cause of pain in the knees or lower back as well. This condition also causes the arch to sink which places stress on the bones, ligaments, and tendons throughout the foot. This may yield other common conditions of foot pain such as plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
You can test for pronation by looking at the leg and foot from the back. Normally you can see the Achilles Tendon run straight down the leg into the heel. If the foot is pronated, the tendon will run straight down the leg, but when it lies on the heel it will twist outward. This makes the inner ankle bone much more prominent than the outer ankle bone.
Non Surgical Treatment
Anti-Pronation Insoles provide a unique foot support system that aligns the lower body. The major cause of foot and leg pain is over pronation (rolling over of the feet) which causes excessive pressure on the muscles, ligaments and bones of the lower body. Running insoles treat the underlying cause of over pronation and prevent future occurrences of the associated foot or leg condition. A project conducted at the NIKE Sport Research Laboratory studied the effects of orthotics on rear foot movement in running. Nine well-trained runners who wore orthotics were chosen as subjects. The results of the study indicated that orthotics reduced rear foot movement by roughly one degree or approximately nine percent of the amount found in runners not using orthotics. The average reduction of the maximum velocity of pronation was fifteen percent. Thus this study indicates that orthotics and insoles control over pronation which will treat and prevent many sporting injuries.
Subtalar Arthroereisis. The ankle and hindfoot bones/midfoot bones around the joint are fused, locking the bones in place and preventing all joint motion. This may also be done in combination with fusion at other joints. This is a very aggressive option usually reserved for extreme cases where no joint flexibility is present and/or the patient has severe arthritic changes in the joint.