A hammertoe is a condition where the middle joint of the big toe bends in an unusual direction, typically inwards on the foot, and the toe is forced into an unnatural position. This condition can be rigid where the toe cannot be moved or flexible where the joint can still be manipulated. The bent toe is often exposed to increased rubbing and friction which causes discomfort and irritation of the skin. Hammertoes most often form on the first two toes, but occasionally develop on the smallest toes. High heels and pointed shoes are often worn by women put a great deal of pressure on the toes and feet. This makes the condition more common in women than men. Those with diabetes or poor circulation are at a higher risk of developing hammertoes.
Muscles in the toes work in pairs, and when they become imbalanced, they can pull the delicate bones of the feet out of alignment causing a hammertoe form. This puts a great deal of pressure on the joints and tendons which push the toe into the hammerhead shape. The extra pressure is also responsible for the pain associated with the condition. There are three common causes for the imbalance which include:
The first thing the doctors will suggest you do is to change to shoes with adequate space available for the toes. They may suggest physical therapy exercises to stretch the toes and release the tendons pulling the bones out of alignment. In some cases, when a hammertoe is especially severe, surgery may be required. This is usually done after other methods such as physical therapy, and anti-inflammatories have not worked. There are several different types of surgical techniques used to treat hammer toes depending on the condition of the toe’s muscles, tendons, and joint. If surgery is needed, the doctors use minimal incision/no scar procedures to reduce recovery time and to minimize any risk of scarring.