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Big Toe and Joint Pain and Stiffness

Big Toe and Joint Pain and Stiffness

Hallux Limitus & Hallux Rigidus – What is it?

Have you started experiencing pain, swelling and stiffness when moving your big toe which is worsened or brought on by the cold, damp weather?  This could be the result of a condition called hallux limitus which means there is a ‘loss of motion in the big toe (or first metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ), or hallux rigidus where there is decreased mobility due to MTP joint stiffness and significant arthritic joint changes’.

In a healthy, uninjured foot, the big toe should have between 50 and 90 degrees of motion – see the picture below (also known as dorsiflexion). The ends of the bones in the joint are covered with smooth articular cartilage, but wear and tear and injury can erode the cartilage and then the two bony ends grind together, which leads to an overgrowth of bone reducing the bend the toe needs when walking. A dysfunctional big toe with stiffness will cause other parts of the body, especially the joints and tissues of the foot, ankle and leg to compensate when walking or running. These compensations for poor big toe function will inevitably increase the strain on these structures and may, over time, cause pain and fatigue.

Possible causes of this pain may include; foot type (very flat or very high arched feet), trauma, stubbing the toe playing sports (eg. Soccer), general overuse, genetics, faulty foot biomechanics, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout or other inflammatory conditions. Other contributing factors include walking or running mechanics, muscle strength and footwear.

If this sounds like you, talk to your Podiatrist who will be able to perform a full assessment of your lower limbs to address your pain and assist with gaining optimal function in your feet.


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