A hammer toe can be defined as a condition that causes your toe to bend downward instead of pointing forward. While it can occur on any toe on your foot, it usually affects the second or third toe.
If your baby toe curls instead of buckling, it is also considered a hammer toe. There are two types of hammertoes
hammer toes. If your toes still can move around at the
joint, then it is considered a flexible hammer toe. It is a milder form of the condition and there are more treatment options. The other type is called a rigid hammertoes
, which occurs when the tendons in your toe become so rigid that they push your toe joint out of
alignment, and it cannot move at all. Typically, you will need surgery to fix it.
While there are a number of causes, there aren't many specific risk factors for hammertoes, women tend to get these problems more than men, but they occur without rhyme or reason. Diabetics, however,
are more likely to get a hammertoe if they have underlying nerve damage in the toes and feet.
A hammertoe may be present but not always painful unless irritated by shoes. One may have enlarged toe joints with some thickened skin and no redness or swelling. However, if shoes create pressure on
the joint, the pain will usually range from pinching and squeezing to sharp and burning. In long standing conditions, the dislocated joints can cause the pain of arthritis.
Although hammertoes are readily apparent, to arrive at a diagnosis the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain a thorough history of your symptoms and examine your foot. During the physical examination,
the doctor may attempt to reproduce your symptoms by manipulating your foot and will study the contractures of the toes. In addition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the
degree of the deformities and assess any changes that may have occurred.
Non Surgical Treatment
Your doctor may prescribe some toe exercises that you can do at home to stretch and strengthen the muscles. For example, you can gently stretch the toes manually. You can use your toes to pick things
up off the floor. While you watch television or read, you can put a towel flat under your feet and use your toes to crumple it. Finally, your doctor may recommend that you use commercially available
straps, cushions or nonmedicated corn pads to relieve symptoms. If you have diabetes, poor circulation or a lack of feeling in your feet, talk to your doctor before attempting any
If conservative measures fail to provide relief, or if your hammertoe is in advanced stages with rigidity and a significant amount of pain, surgery may be required. Some patients also require surgery
if they have open sores or wounds related to their hammertoe. For patients who also suffer from bunions, a combined procedure may be appropriate, addressing both conditions within the same surgery.
Recovery time will vary from patient to patient, depending on the extent of the surgical repair and other conditions that may also be present.
Wear thick-soled shoes if you walk on hard surfaces on a regular basis. Wear shoes with low heels. Have your feet checked regularly by a podiatrist to ensure that no deformities or conditions are
developing. Do stretching exercises daily to strengthen the muscles in your feet.