Arthritis of the Great Toe


Image Credit: Orthosport Victoria

“Your health is what you make of it. Everything you do and think either adds to the vitality, energy and spirit you possess or takes away from it.” - Ann Wigmore

There are certain aspects of our body that often go un-noticed until they start to ache. The big toe, is one such pain point in the body. Over time, as we mature there are conditions that can affect the foot and cause pain at individual pain points. Arthritis has the ability to attack the MTP, or metatarsophalangeal joint. At a critical juncture in the body that must bend every time you walk, it is very important to ensure that appropriate treatment is taken, if one is feeling symptoms that are representative of arthritis. Your orthopaedic surgeon will be the best person to diagnose the condition, so seek their consultation if you feel pain in the region.

Arthritis in the toes, is induced by usage of the area. Common in older persons, the result is as a result of a wearing away of the joint. The following are symptoms usually experienced by persons who suffer from arthritis:

  1. Pain in the area, particularly around the toe joint where the flexor motion takes place

  2. Swelling of the toe joint, due to aggravation of the joint causing an immune reaction.

  3. Stiffness of the area, experienced after long periods of inactivity such as early in the morning.

Your orthopaedic surgeon will recommend initial treatment of your arthritis such as protective shoes and inserts such as orthotics. In terms of pain management, ice treatments, and pain killers are often prescribed. Patients are often prescribed pain killers that are available either over the counter or via prescription. Additionally, injected corticosteroids are effective in reducing swelling of the joint.

Surgical Intervention for Arthritis in the Great Toe

When the aforementioned treatment methods aren’t effective, one effective means via which arthritis can be treated is via minimally invasive surgical procedures. As the MTP joint becomes more painful to the patient, there are moments where deeper intervention will have to be investigated. Your orthopaedic surgeon will do a detailed assessment of the area, utilizing analytical tools such as X-rays, in order to identify the severity of your condition. Many times during analysis, the following may be found:

A bone spur, caused during the wearing away of the MTP joint. The bone spur impacts the ability of the toe to bend, and the result is known as Hallux Rigidus, or stiff big toe. Prevalent in the age group 30-60 years, toe stresses are the main root cause.

Minimally Invasive Surgical Treatment for Arthritis

There are three main surgical treatments for arthritis. These are arthroplasty, arthrodesis and cheilectomy. Your orthopaedic surgeon will determine which method is best for your adverse arthritic condition. Arthroplasty as a treatment, is a joint replacement treatment, which ensures a restoration of the area via the use of implants that the body will heal itself around. Arthrodesis, involves fusing the bones via a series of pins, screws and plates. The toe cannot bend under this condition, but the pain reduction compared to the prior condition is noticeable. Finally with a cheilectomy, the joint is restored via procedures such as removal of the bone spurs, to facilitate the motion of the joint.

As a critical impactor to our ability to walk, it is critical to ensure that any pain sensations in the feet are appropriately assessed by your orthopaedic surgeon.

Reference Articles:

  1. Stiff Big Toe:

  2. What’s Aching Your Big Toe: