Hammer toe is defined as a deformity in the toe where part of the toe is permanently bent downward resembling a hammer. Two related conditions are mallet toe and claw toe which effect different toe
joints in slightly different ways. The key difference is that Hammer toes
tends to effect the middle joint in the toe (note: not
the middle toe, the middle toe joint). The disease is usually associated with the second largest toe but can effect the third or fourth toe as well. Mallet toe effects the uppermost toe joint whereas
claw toe is caused by the tow being held in a cramped ?claw-like? position.
A hammertoe is formed due 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
and trauma can also lead to the formation of a hammertoe. Arthritis is another factor, because the balance around the toe in people with arthritis is so disrupted that a hammertoe may develop.
Wearing shoes that are too tight and cause the toes to squeeze can also be a cause for a hammertoe to form.
The symptoms of hammertoe include a curling toe, pain or discomfort in the toes and ball of the foot or the front of the leg, especially when toes are stretched downward. Thickening of the skin above
or below the affected toe with the formation of corns or
calluses. Difficulty finding shoes that fit well. In its early stages, hammertoe is not obvious. Frequently, hammertoe does not cause any symptoms except for the claw-like toe shape.
Hammertoes are progressive, they don?t go away by themselves and usually they will get worse over time. However, not all cases are alike, some hammertoes progress more rapidly than others. Once your
foot and ankle surgeon has evaluated your hammertoes, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.
Non Surgical Treatment
Hammer toes usually get progressively worse over time, especially if you avoid seeking care. Not all cases are the same, so it is important to get your podiatrist or foot surgeon to evaluate your
condition so that you can get the treatment you need as soon as possible. Your treatment options will vary depending on the severity of your hammer toe. You may not require surgery to treat your
hammer toe. Your doctor may suggest one of these less invasive measures. Instead of wearing shoes that are too high or too short, wear comfortable shoes that have plenty of room and are flat or
low-heeled. Your doctor can prescribe pads that will prevent your corns or calluses from getting irritated. Avoid over-the-counter medicated pads, as they contain acid that can worsen your condition.
An orthotic device can be customized to fit your shoe and foot. It can help control your tendon and muscle imbalance, which in turn may ease your pain. NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
such as ibuprofen can reduce inflammation. By relieving swelling in your toe joint, you can alleviate your pain. Splints or small straps can be placed on your toe by a foot surgeon to realign your
bent toe. Applying ice packs wrapped in cloth on your hammer toe can reduce inflammation and swelling. Gently massaging your toes can assist in alleviating your pain caused by hammer toes. Try
exercises that stretch your feet as these can help restore your muscle balance. A simple exercise that can help is to pick up a cloth or small object from the floor by curling your toes. This action
will help your feet and toes by stretching them.
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 hammer toes, which are not fully reducible, may require more complex surgical procedures. Recuperation takes time, and some swelling and discomfort are common
for several weeks following surgery. Any pain, however, is easily managed with medications prescribed by your podiatrist.
Be good to your feet, because they carry you. They are designed to last a lifetime, but that doesn?t mean they don?t need some love and care as well as some basic maintenance. Check your feet
regularly for problems. This is especially true if you have diabetes or any other medical condition that causes poor circulation or numbness in your toes. If you do, check your feet every day so
problems can be caught early on. Good circulation is essential. When you're sitting down, put your feet up. If you've been sitting for a while, stretch your legs and feet. Give yourself a foot
massage, or ask someone you love for a foot massage. A warm foot bath is also a good idea.