Hammer Toe: Causes and Treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The hammer toe is a deformity occurs in one of the fingers of the foot (the second, third or fourth finger), in which the tip or end of this is flexed and bent downward, so gets a hammer-like appearance. In the initial stages, the affected finger is still flexible and the deformity can be corrected following a series of simple guidelines, however, if the appropriate treatment is not received early, the injury and the symptoms will worsen, and may even lead to a total stiffness of the joint and the inability to straighten the finger; When this happens, surgical intervention will be required.

In this FastlyHealarticle, we delve deeper into this condition and show what are the causes and treatment for hammer toe.

Causes and risk factors of hammer toe

In most cases, hammer toe initially affects the second toe, although it can also spread or affect the other toes, with the exception of the first toe, which is the only one that does not suffer such deformation because instead of three phalanges, it has only two. This deformity is caused by the existence of an imbalance between the muscle and the tendon of the toe, which ends up causing this flexion of the toe and other structural changes in the foot that can appear over time.

Here are the most common causes of this condition, as well as the risk factors that increase the chances of suffering from it:

  • Inappropriate footwear: regularly wearing shoes that are narrow to the tip, too tight or that do not fit well to the foot, is one of the main factors that can lead to this deformity. If the toe cannot take up its proper space inside the shoe and is forced into a flexed position, your muscles and tendons eventually become tight, become shorter, and cannot be stretched properly. This is very common in women who wear very narrow shoes or high heels.
  • Previous injury or trauma: This deformity may be caused by a previous injury or fracture to the toes.
  • Genetic factors: Those born with longer toe bones are more likely to develop hammer toe. Likewise, in other cases it may be that this imbalance between the muscle and the tendon is hereditary.
  • Other podiatric conditions, such as bunions : Bunions are bony protrusions that appear at the outer base of the big toe and are caused by a deviation of the first metatarsal, causing the first toe to tilt towards the second. When this deviation is not treated as required and progresses over time, it is possible that it will put excessive pressure on the other toes and lead to hammer toe.

Symptoms associated with hammer toe

A person who suffers from hammer toe presents the final part of the toe flexed , since the joint of the middle of the toe is bent and, although initially, it may manifest mildly, if it is not treated, the deformity will go away progressing progressively and may reach the point where it is not possible to stretch and straighten the affected finger. Common symptoms that manifest include the following:

  • Pain and irritation in the affected toe, which is intensified when wearing footwear.
  • Callus formation on the top of the toe and calluses between the toes or on the side of the foot.
  • Swelling, redness, and a feeling of heat or burning in the finger.
  • Contracture in the big toe.
  • Only in very serious cases, open ulcerations may also occur.

Hammer toe treatment

When the affected toe can still stretch and return to its normal position, the doctor may recommend the following forms of treatment, taking into account the condition of the deformity and the symptoms that occur:

  • Change footwear: it is essential to use shoes that are wide in the front, that allow full mobility of the toes and that provide comfort. Avoid all those models that are narrow at the tip, small, short or high-heeled.
  • Splinting or bandaging: the hammer toe is splinted or bandaged to correct the deformity, align the flexed finger, and avoid absolute stiffness of the joint.
  • Orthotics: A perfectly adapted orthotic or insole is placed on the shoe to relieve pressure on the hammer toe.
  • Cold application: placing a little ice wrapped in a cloth or a frozen bag on the sore area can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  • Use of pads: the use of pads is recommended to protect the calluses present from possible irritations and prevent them from causing discomfort with the rubbing of footwear.

In addition to the above, if necessary, anti-inflammatory medications , such as ibuprofen, may be prescribed to reduce swelling and discomfort. Likewise, on some occasions corticosteroid injections may also be recommended to combat pain and reduce inflammation of the finger.

To correct the injury, performing some specific exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles of the toes may also be helpful. The best options include trying to gently stretch your fingers repeatedly, picking up something off the floor with your skin fingers, such as a towel, and gently moving and stretching the affected finger with your hands.

In which cases is surgery necessary?

In cases where the deformation has advanced severely and the toe in question has completely lost its flexibility , has become very stiff and painful, surgery may be required to straighten the joint and contribute to well-being. of the patient.

The specialist doctor will recommend the most appropriate surgical procedure in each case, as this may include the removal of the part of the bone that has caused the deformation, the fusion of the joint to straighten the finger or the cutting or transplantation of the tendons of the fingers. toes. Each patient’s case will be exhaustively evaluated and the orthopedic surgeon will decide between one or the other depending on the severity of the injury and the health status of the affected person.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Hammer Toe: Causes and Treatment , we recommend that you enter our Bones, Joints and Muscles category .

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