OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Gregory Mack, DPM, FACFAS

Hammertoe Pain & Your Podiatrist

Gregory Mack, DPM, FACFAS
Podiatric Medicine
Foot & Ankle Clinic

A hammertoe is a bending of the toe at the first joint of the digit, called the proximal interphalangeal joint. This bending causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when looked at fromthe side making your toe appear hammer shaped. Any toe can be involved, but the condition usually affects the second through fifth toes. Hammertoes are more common to females than males.

There are two different types:
Flexible hammertoes are less serious because they can be diagnosed and treated while still in the developmental stage. They are called flexible hammertoes because they are still moveable at the joint.

Rigid hammertoes are more serious and can be seen in patients with severe arthritis, for example, or in patients who wait too long to seek professional treatment. The tendons in a rigid hammertoe have become tight, and the joint misaligned and immobile, making surgery the usual course of treatment.

Hammertoe symptoms:
• Pain upon pressure at top of bent toe from footwear
• The formation of corns on the top of the joint
• Redness and swelling at the joint
• Restricted or painful motion of the toe joint
• Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe

How Do You Get a Hammertoe?

A hammertoe is formed due to an abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes. This abnormal balance causes increased pressures on the tendons and joints of the toe, leading to its contracture. Heredity, trauma and arthritis can also lead to the formation of a hammertoe. Wearing shoes that are too tight that cause the toes to squeeze together can also be a cause of hammertoes.

What Will Your Podiatrist Do to Treat a Hammertoe?

The treatment options vary with the type and severity of each hammertoe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important to avoid surgery. Podiatric medical attention should be sought at the first indication of pain and discomfort because, if left untreated, hammertoes tend to become rigid, making a nonsurgical treatment less of an option. Your podiatric physician will examine and x-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your condition.

Padding and Taping:
Often this is the first step in a treatment plan. Padding the hammertoe minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal active life. Taping may change the imbalance around the toes and thus relieve the stress and pain.

Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed to ease acute pain and inflammation
caused by the joint deformity.

Orthotic Devices:
Custom shoe inserts made by your podiatrist may be useful in controlling foot function. An orthotic device may reduce symptoms and prevent the worsening of the hammertoe deformity.

Surgical Options:
Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatric physician. For less severe deformities, the surgery will remove the bony prominence and restore normal alignment of the toe joint, thus relieving pain.

Severe hammertoes may require more complex surgical procedures.
Recuperation takes time, and some swelling and slight discomfort is common for a few weeks following surgery.

Dr. Mack – Foot & Ankle Clinic
For information or to schedule an appointment:
715.235.4274 or 800.359.4421
Dr. Mack sees patients in Menomonie, Cumberland, Eau Claire, Rice Lake and Shell Lake.