Big problems for big toe joints

Large toe joint issues aren’t enjoyable, as many individuals know from private expertise. Pink, swollen, or misshapen joints may be ugly. Nonetheless worse, although, is the ache –– and typically the chance of immobility –– that accompanies large toe joint issues. Fortuitously, you may take some easy steps to assist relieve ache and maintain you from slowing down.

Large toe 101

The large toe has two joints, however the one most weak to issues is the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. It connects the primary lengthy bone (metatarsal) within the forefoot to the primary bone of the large toe (phalanx).

The MTP joint bends with each step you are taking, so you may push off and let the opposite leg transfer ahead. However the poor MTP joint takes a beating throughout that course of, supporting half your physique weight for a short second as you push off.


A standard consequence for the MTP joint is osteoarthritis, the sporting away of cartilage on the finish of the bones. It usually reveals up beginning in center age. With out cartilage, the house between bones decreases and the bones rub towards one another. This may trigger ache and result in painful growths known as osteophytes or bone spurs.

Osteoarthritis also can trigger a lack of flexibility within the MTP joint, a situation referred to as hallux rigidus.

However MTP arthritis isn’t all the time painful. “Usually, large toe arthritis doesn’t trigger signs. We generally see individuals are available in for different issues after which we see arthritis on an x-ray,” says Dr. Christopher Chiodo, chief of foot and ankle surgical procedure at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Ladies’s Hospital.

If MTP arthritis doesn’t damage, your physician could suggest that you just keep away from sporting excessive heels, in case you put on these, and as an alternative put on stiff-soled sneakers to scale back the movement of the MTP joint.

Therapy is available in if there’s ache. In that case, Dr. Chiodo usually prescribes a carbon-fiber base plate to insert contained in the shoe and reduce joint movement. “And a few sufferers have aid with a rocker-bottom shoe,” he provides.

Surgical procedure to take away bone spurs, clear out the arthritic MTP joint, or fuse the bones is a final resort. Dr. Chiodo says it might be needed if

  • you’ve each day ache that’s lasted for greater than three months
  • the ache interferes together with your each day actions
  • and also you haven’t responded to nonsurgical choices.


Household historical past and tight sneakers with slim toe bins (like excessive heels) could play a job in making a bunion. If in case you have a bunion, the primary metatarsal bone juts outward on the joint, inflicting the phalanx bone to level inward towards the opposite toes. “Compressing the toes collectively over years weakens the ligaments that maintain the toe in a straight place,” Dr. Chiodo explains.

If bunions don’t damage, keep away from surgical procedure, Dr. Chiodo recommends. “You’ll be able to put on sneakers with a large toe field or stretch your sneakers to make room for the bulging MTP joint,” he says. You’ll additionally wish to keep away from sporting heels, which proceed compressing the toes collectively.

In case your bunion hurts, surgical procedure goals to realign the bones of the foot so the large toe is in a straight place. “Generally we’ve got to chop the bone and reset it, and typically we’ve got to fuse it,” Dr. Chiodo explains. Afterward, you will have to put on a particular shoe or boot and keep away from placing weight in your foot for six weeks.

Nevertheless, a surgical repair doesn’t all the time final. “Bunions can recur. It’s one of the frequent issues. Sporting sneakers with a slim toe field will enhance the possibility that this occurs,” Dr. Chiodo warns.

What you need to do

If MTP joint ache is interfering together with your mobility, see your physician. You might or is probably not surgical procedure down the road. Solely your physician could make that decision.

In any other case, get smarter about footwear. Skip heels and put on stiff-soled or rocker backside sneakers. It’s a straightforward repair that may result in one thing actually lovely: sustaining your mobility and strolling round with out MTP joint ache.

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