Learn more about hallux rigidus, or early onset arthritis of the big toe.

Facts about big toe arthritis

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Do you have pain and stiffness in the big toe joint during use (walking, standing, bending, etc.)? Does your big toe joint hurt in cold weather? Does your big toe joint ever swell? Have you noticed a bump on top of your foot? If so, you may be suffering from hallux rigidus or early onset arthritis of your big toe.

What is Hallux Rigidus? Hallux rigidus is a disorder of the joint located at the base of the big toe. It causes pain and stiffness in the joint, and with time it gets increasingly harder to bend the toe. This condition is a form of degenerative arthritis.

What Causes Hallux Rigidus?

Common causes of hallux rigidus are function and physical abnormalities of the foot that can lead to osteoarthritis in the big toe joint. This type of arthritis, the kind that results from wear and tear, often develops in people who have defects that change the way their foot and big toe functions. For example, those with fallen arches or excessive pronation (rolling in) of the ankles are susceptible to developing hallux rigidus. In some people, hallux rigidus is genetic, while in others it is an overuse injury that results from repetitive trauma.

I’m Experiencing Symptoms, What Should I Do?

See a foot and ankle specialist. This is a progressive condition and the earlier it is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Therefore, the best time to see a foot and ankle specialist is when you first notice symptoms and hopefully before bone spurs develop.

Is Surgery Always Needed?

No, most patients will improve with conservative therapy which can consist of physical therapy, injection therapy, medications and certain shoe gear modifications. In some cases, surgery is the only way to eliminate or reduce pain. Your foot and ankle specialist can discuss the various surgical options that exist based on your deformity. If surgery is needed, not only do patients go home the same day, they are often walking on the same day!