Big Toe Joint, Hammer Toe & Bunionette Problems:
Big Toe Arthritis Pain [Causes, Symptoms & Best Home Treatment]
Big Toe Arthritis Pain: The most common causes are: #1) Hallux Rigidus, #2) Gout in the big toe joint, #3) Hallux Limitus, #4) Sesamoiditis & MORE!
- Big toe joint pain can be improved with a few simple treatment changes.
- We are foot doctors & we see this problem get better almost every day.
- The goal is to solve this problem without medication or surgery if possible.
So, let’s GO!
- Do you have a stiff big toe? This might mean that there is arthritis developing within your big toe joint.
- If you have a slight decrease in motion, this is called hallux limitus.
- If the big toe joint does not bend at all, this is called hallux rigidus.
- This does mean that there is destruction of your cartilage within the joint.
- As the joint keeps getting more and more damaged, it starts to develop a very large spur on the big toe joint.
- It is possible to also have a bunion in the big toe joint arthritis.
- It is possible to have sesamoiditis and big toe joint arthritis.
- It is possible to have a turf toe and big toe joint arthritis, although little bit less likely.
So, click on the gallery to see a description & full size photos!
Click on pictures for full size & descriptions:
Big toe arthritis is caused by inflammation of the big toe joint. There are many causes of arthritis, but usually only 3 major causes in the big toe joint alone:
- Osteoarthritis: This is the classic wear and tear arthritis that occurs in patients over 40-50 years old.
- Traumatic Arthritis: This arthritis can occur after a serious injury to the big toe joint. Examples include a broken bone or cartilage damage (not just a sprain).
- Gout: This is known as a crystal arthritis, it is the results of uric acid crystals in the joint. This is very common (5 million in USA) & is extremely painful for 1-2 days.
- Worse with activity.
- Better at rest.
- Decreased joint range of motion.
- Aching pain.
- Fatigue like pain.
- Extreme pain for 1-2 days without injury.
- High degree of redness.
- High degree of swelling.
- Usually after a night of alcohol drinking (dehydration).
- 8+/10 on the pain scale.
- Better with ice & anti-inflammatory medication.
Treatment of Big Toe Arthritis Pain:
- There are 3 stages to Big Toe Arthritis Pain Relief.
- This guide focuses primarily on osteoarthritis & traumatic arthritis.
- You should go see a podiatrist immediately at the first signs of gout in the big toe; you will need pain medication!
1)Decrease The Inflammation:
This must be done for approximately 1-2 weeks until the pain decreases.
- Cryotherapy: Ice the big toe joint for 15-20 minutes.
- NSAIDs: Use an anti-inflammatory(Ibuprofen, Naproxen etc) to decrease the inflammation. Do this under the supervision of your physician. Less inflammation means better healing.
- Over The Counter Orthotics: Get a rigid pair for approximately $25 (I like Powersteps), this will greatly improve your foot stress! The best foot value you can possibly get! (Avoid the flimsy gel inserts, they don’t work!)
2)Start Correcting The Cause:
Do this for a couple months and see if the joint pain is getting better.
- Weight loss: I won’t say anything else!
- Custom Orthotics: If you have insurance, they can be more durable & offer better control.
- Stretching of Hamstrings, Calves & Plantar Fascia: **This is the most important thing you can do**. This is the most important thing you can do to improve the pressure distribution while you walk & stand.
3)See A Podiatrist:
Something made that pain appear in the first place and it is a good idea to get it checked out & find the root cause of it.
- Biomechanical Consult: Evaluate your entire bio-mechanical structure. See if you arthritis is caused by tight muscles, knees, hips or back? Or maybe even problems that you didn’t know about like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis.
- Surgical Consult: Only a small percentage of people ever end up needing this, usually in very advanced disease.
For more on toe arthritis:
Big Toe Joint Home Treatment Infographic:
Big Toe Joint Injury or Surgery Treatment:
- If you think you might have a severe turf toe, a severe tear or sprain, a broken big toe joint or broken big toe, or you have just had surgery: this guide may be able to help you!
- Just make sure to check with your podiatrist because a severe injury will require imaging, biomechanical evaluation, and a good discussion to prevent anything from going more wrong.
- For surgery, purposes make sure to discuss with your podiatrist To see what is recommended, as every surgery is unique, and there are pros and cons to all treatment methods.
Big Toe Joint Fracture, Sprain, or Surgery Products:
- If you have a traumatic injury such as a broken bone or ligament tear, these products may be able to help you.
- The best way to do this is, of course, to see your podiatrist and get evaluated with an x-ray, ultrasound, and potentially even an MRI or CT scan.
- If you cannot do so, it may benefit you to be in a cast, fractured boot, or even keep the weight off of it with a rolling knee scooter or other protective devices.
- We as podiatrists frequently take patients off work for a very long period of time when they suffer a traumatic injury. Unfortunately, there is no other way around us in labor jobs.
- If you have a sit-down job, there are ways to get people back to work quicker, but this can be impossible otherwise.
- Just remember these injuries can take a very long time, specifically 2 to 3 months or more, to come back from if you’re going to be on your feet all day. There is a long recovery time and healing time in most cases.
Big Toe Joint Injury & Surgery Immobilization:
- There are pros and cons to using a boot to treat your big toe joint injury. If you are immobilized too long, the cons are that you will gradually become stiff and overworked to your other leg.
- The Pros are that your injured heel will hopefully have a chance to heal gradually!
- Our favorite fracture boots and their supplies:
Big Toe Arthritis and Hallux Rigidus:
- One of the best treatment options for a stiff big toe is a stiff orthotic.
- The big toe can become arthritic, and what causes the pain is the bone grinding on a joint that cannot move.
- Getting a rigid carbon insole can make a huge difference in preventing the bend of the big toe joint.
- Out of the big toe joint products in the next table, the carbon insole is worth looking at for relieving the big toe joint bed.
- A good over-the-counter orthotic can provide a similar result, and we would otherwise prefer those.
Offloading and Scooter Treatment:
- If you cannot use your foot, it needs to be immobilized: we have found success with offloading the scooters in these products.
- Crutches can be difficult long term, whereas scooters can really help you get around and to work if you have a sit-down job in this been okay-ed with your podiatrist.
- These are our favorite knee scooters and walking devices:
Best Big Toe Joint Products:
- There are usually two phases to treating big toe joint pain
- The two phases of treatment include controlling the acute inflammation with protection and correcting the biomechanics, which led to the problem in the first place.
- If the tendons, joints, and ligaments are inflamed, they are almost frozen in place and cannot function properly.
- Inflammation can mean damage as well, in this most likely needs to be protected as the big toe joint heavily relies upon the weight-bearing joint. So consider discussing with your podiatrist the need for and offloading surgical shoes or boots.
- Once the inflammation is decreased, we need to correct the biomechanical causes to ensure that they can never become overworked and inflamed again!
- The key with an injury or surgery is to keep it protected initially, and when the bone and tendon heels, to get moving before stiffness can set in.
Best Bunion Specific Products:
- There are no perfect bunion treatment products.
- Most people end up disappointed after spending a lot of money on bunion pads, bunion gel pads, expensive bunion correctors, and bunion splints!
- The truth is a bunion is a biomechanical injury. The foot is flattening out, and the ankle is flattening out, causing the pain.
- Having a gel pad on the big toe has very little chance of fixing the deformity, although it can stop the rubbing and relieve a lot of the pain.
- This is why people sometimes wear splints and correctors. It holds the toe straighter so that the tissue and were’s and have left pain.
Big Toe Joint Inflammation Control:
Massage & Ice Products:
- Ice is an excellent option that can be safe for almost everyone.
- There is some debate about whether icing is worth doing, but this can help limit the need for medications and keep your options open for chronic pain.
- This works great for your arch, less for the ball of the foot.
- The more muscle and ligament tissue there is, the better ice will work there.
Menthol Based Gels:
- Biofreeze is one of our favorites.
- This can work well as a cream or gel option for your big toe joint pain.
- These gels have been studied to work 2x as long as ice.
- This works great for the ball of the foot.
- This can be very effective for the bottom of the heel and Achilles tendon sore regions.
- These can work great for loosening your muscles.
- This is not to be used directly onto your foot but to help take pressure off the foot’s front.
- This allows less tightness and pressure on the ball of your foot.
- This is very effective for the arch, the gastrocnemius, calf muscle, and the hamstring and thigh muscles.
- This also works very well for the gluteus muscles if you are having butt cheek or hip pain.
Remove the Big Toe Joint Pressure:
- The key is to prevent future pain and to keep pressure off of the big toe joint.
- This means keeping you active while keeping stress off of your big toe joint. This will prevent future bunions, sesamoiditis, turf toe, and even big toe joint arthritis!
- If you can get rid of the pain and swelling, this will let you start walking normally.
- If you can walk normally, the vast majority of your pain should gradually start to go away.
- The best way to ensure that your big toe joint, hammertoes, and foot and ankle ligaments are not overworked is to support them.
- The best way to support them is to use great orthotics and great shoes.
- Some people may also need to rely on supportive ankle braces and other supportive modalities.
Best Big Toe Joint & Flat Foot Shoes:
- Getting a great supportive pair of shoes will make sure that there is no further pressure onto the ball of your foot and the big toe joint region.
- This is especially important if you have plantar fasciitis, heel spur pain, or Achilles tendonitis.
- Consider shoes combined with a good supportive orthotic for the best pain relief!
- We have found shoes and orthotics to be one of the most effective ways to reduce bunion and hammertoe pain.
- The following link will show you what our favorites are.
Best Big Toe Joint & Flat Foot Orthotics:
- These are our recommended orthotics for offloading the big toe joint.
- Custom orthotics can work very well, but they should not be the first line of treatment. Custom orthotics can cost a lot of money, over the counter orthotics can be a great introduction to foot control and prevent pronation.
- There are different types of orthotics for different types of shoes.
- Women’s shoes usually need a less bulky orthotic but allow for less correction of your big toe joint and ball of the foot pain.
- A full-length orthotic requires a running shoe, boot, or comfortable walking/dress shoe.
- We recommend doing everything you can to get a good supportive shoe that can fit a full-length orthotic. This will get you the best results for your bunion, hammertoes, and bunionette.
- This is the best way to maximize your orthotics for great results.
Best Full-Length Orthotics:
- These will only work in wider shoes or a good supportive running shoe.
- This will not work in sandals, flats, or most women’s dress shoes.
Best Dress Shoe Orthotics:
- These are a great choice for dress orthotics.
Best 3/4 Length Orthotics:
- These are great options for women’s dress shoes and thinner shoes.
- These are not the most supportive pair of orthotics.
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Get A Great Dynamic Stretch:
- The goal of getting a great stretch is to improve your ankle flexibility and prevent ball of the foot pain and big toe joint pressure.
- It is possible to stretch on your own, but these products can also really help!
- This will take pressure off of the ball of your foot.
- We personally prefer this method of stretching.
Get A Great Static Stretch:
- These devices are great for stretching while you are resting.
- This will also help take pressure off of the ball of your foot.
- This works great for plantar fasciitis but can also make your ankle more flexible in removing pressure from the ball of your foot!
- It can be used while watching TV or at night time.
Big Toe Joint, Hammer Toe & Bunionette Problems: