Hammertoes are a toe deformity that often does not seem so bad in their earliest stages. But as time progresses, the condition of your toes worsens, and the problem becomes more and more prominent in your life.
No matter what stage your hammertoes may be, receiving expert care is essential toward relieving and managing your symptoms. Something can almost always be done not only to improve your comfort and mobility now but also to retain more of it through the future.
What Are Hammertoes?
A hammertoe develops when the tendons, muscles, or other connective tissues that move a toe become unstable. This leads to an imbalance of forces that causes the toe to bend while at rest.
Although a hammertoe is the most known type of this deformity, there are several based on where the bend occurs:
- Hammertoe – The bend occurs at the middle joint of a toe, causing the front of the toe to bend downward. This is most frequent in the second toe.
- Mallet Toe – The bend occurs in the joint closest to the front of the toe. Similar to a hammertoe, this is most frequently seen in the second digit.
- Claw Toe – Multiple bends tend to occur with this condition. The joint where the toe meets the foot bends upward, while the remaining joints of the toe bend downward, providing a claw-like appearance. Claw toes tend to happen to all four smaller toes at once.
In the early stages, hammertoes and related conditions are typically flexible in nature. You can press on the toe to make it straight again. But over time, most conditions will become rigid, and the toe remains fixed in a bent position.
What Causes Hammertoes to Develop?
We already know that an imbalance in the structures of the toes is responsible for toes unnaturally bending. But what causes that imbalance in the first place?
There are several factors that can contribute to such developments:
- Structural abnormalities or changes. Some people are born with structural abnormalities that make hammertoes more likely to develop. Others can have such abnormalities occur later in life as their arches sag and collapse.
- Trauma. Past trauma to the toes, such as major sprains or fractures, can make structural instabilities more likely.
- Nerve damage. Progressive conditions such as diabetes can cause muscles in the feet to weaken over time. This might lead to hammertoes or other deformities when the muscles are no longer strong enough to keep the toe straight.
- Shoe choices. Poor footwear choices can cause instabilities to worsen. Shoes that do not provide enough toe room, are too narrow in the front, or force too much weight toward the front of the foot can all contribute to hammertoe development.
When treating hammertoes, surgery is often not the first resort. In most cases, our primary goals will be:
- Addressing the symptoms caused by hammertoes (e.g. pain, irritation, corns, calluses, sores, etc.).
- Limit or stop the deformity from progressing further.
Many times, these goals can be effectively reached with conservative methods – especially when the toes are still flexible.
After a thorough examination of your condition and learning more about your personal needs, we can recommend a treatment plan that best fits your situation. Parts of a plan might include:
- Changes to more accommodating and supportive footwear
- The use of custom orthotics to shift excess pressure away from unstable joints.
- Padding, splints, and other equipment to hold the toes in more comfortable positions.
- Exercises to strengthen and condition the muscles, tendons, and other tissues connected to the toe joints, improving flexibility and range of motion.
If conservative measures do not provide the results we need, however, then surgery might be considered as a means of providing greater relief.
Several surgical procedures might be considered depending on the factors surrounding each case. Tendons might be released to keep toes lying flat, as intended. Sometimes removing some bone tissue may also provide greater comfort.
If surgery is a feasible option, we will always make sure to carefully discuss every potential procedure with you and answer every question you might have. You will have full control over how you wish to proceed with your hammertoe treatment.
Oklahoma City’s Experts in Hammertoe Treatment
Remember that the earlier hammertoes are identified and addressed, the better results treatment can tend to have. Even if your hammertoes are not bothering you much now, don’t wait for them to get worse before starting to do something about them!
Early detection of hammertoes is essential for the best care and a higher chance of avoiding surgery. Schedule an appointment by calling our office or by filling out our online contact form.
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