Hallux limitus is a medical condition which means “stiff toe.” It is an arthritic condition that limits movement of the big toe. The pain is usually located at the area where your large toe and foot meet. The condition is not serious, but should be treated before it can lead to hallux rigidus. Hallux rigidus is a condition in which motion of the big toe can become extremely limited.
The symptoms of hallux limitus are easy to overlook. Anyone can feel toe pain and believe that it is nothing serious. However, symptoms can include sharp pain, development of bone growths, feelings of tightness around the joint, difficulties wearing shoes, inflammation of the joint, and even the change in the way you walk. If you experience these symptoms, you should see a podiatrist while the condition is still in its early stages.
This condition may be a result of genetics, or the simple wearing out of your feet. Hallux limitus can be inherited or occur in people born with a predisposition to arthritis. Injury or overuse can cause trauma to the joint. This can lead to extra bone growth and the wearing away of cartilage. These situations will lead to arthritis, pain and limited motion in the toe. In some cases, certain systemic diseases such as lupus or gout can cause hallux limitus.
There are different methods for diagnosis, but an x-ray is generally performed along with a test to determine the big toe's range of motion.
A limited number of treatments are available; in mild cases, lifestyle and physical therapy are recommended, along with oral anti-inflammatory medications. The R.I.C.E. method, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation, is immensely helpful for treatment. It is crucial not to overuse the toe and to be careful when it comes to exercise and other physical activities. Too much activity can destroy the cartilage that remains in the toe joint, making the toe even stiffer.
However, if the patient does not show any improvement, surgery may have to be considered. The most common surgeries are arthrodesis, the fusing of the joint, and cheilectomy, when the joint is cleaned of scar tissue so the toe can move more easily. Many patients who receive surgery return to their normal routines usually a couple of months after their operation.