Toe Pain Treatment Options
Treating Bunions, Hammertoes and All Toe Pain
A bunion is a bone deformity caused by lateral deviation of the toe. The migration outward of a bone called the 1st metatarsal causes a misalignment of the toe and results in an unsightly and painful bump.
As the toe moves outward, the medial aspect of the foot, or the "bump," causes friction and pressure as it rubs against footwear. Over time, the movement of the big toe angles in toward the other toes and will sometimes overlap the second toe. This will cause more irritation and can also lead to other toe deformities, such as hammertoe.
Many people with bunions suffer from discomfort and pain from the constant irritation, rubbing, and friction against shoes. The skin over the toe becomes red and tender. Because this joint flexes with every step, the bigger the bunion gets, the more it hurts to walk. Over time, bursitis or arthritis may set in and everyday walking may become difficult—all contributing to chronic pain. Letting this happen with no treatment can lead to further ankle pain or heel pain.
Risk Factors and Causes
- The main cause is hereditary biomechanical issues.
- Uneven pressure of bearing and shifting your weight on the joints and tendons in your feet.
- People who wear shoes that are too tight, too narrow or too pointed, such as high heels are more susceptible to bunion pain and symptoms.
- Pain from arthritis may change the way you walk, making you more susceptible to bunions.
Take care of your feet, and your family’s feet, during childhood and early adulthood. Bunions develop slowly; preventative care can pay off later in life. Monitor the possible progression of a bunion; watch the shape of your feet as they develop over time, especially if foot problems run in your family.
- Exercise and strengthen your feet.
- Learn to pick up small objects with your toes.
- Wear shoes that fit properly and that do not cramp or pinch your toes (avoid shoes with high heels or pointed toes).
Treatment for Bunions
Because they are bone deformities, bunions do not resolve by themselves. The goal for bunion treatment is to relieve the pressure and pain caused by irritations and stop persisting growth of the enlargement. Commonly used methods for reducing pressure and pain caused by bunions include:
- Protective padding that eliminates the friction against shoes and help alleviate inflammation and skin problems.
- Remove corns and calluses on the foot.
- Change to specially fitted footwear designed to accommodate the bunion and not contribute toward its growth.
- Orthotic devices—both over-the-counter and custom made—to help stabilize the joint and place the foot in the correct position for walking and standing.
- Exercises to maintain joint mobility and prevent stiffness or arthritis.
- Splints for nighttime wear to help the toes and joint align properly. This is often recommended for adolescents with bunions, because their bone development may still be adaptable.
Depending on the size of the enlargement, misalignment of the toe, and pain experienced, conservative treatments may not be adequate to prevent progressive damage from bunions. In these cases, bunion surgery, known as a bunionectomy, may be advised to fix the bunion and realign the toe.
Hammertoe is a deformity of the lesser toes. In this condition, the toe is bent at the middle joint, causing it to resemble a hammer. Left untreated, hammertoes can become inflexible and require surgery. People with hammertoes may have corns or calluses on the top or tip of the toe. They may also feel pain in their toes or feet and have difficulty finding comfortable shoes. Seek treatment right away if you have difficulty walking because of pain.
Risk Factors and Causes
The risk of developing hammertoe increases with age. A second risk factor is toe length. If you second toe is longer than your big toe, you are at a higher risk for hammertoe because of the difficulty of finding properly fitting shoes for your foot type.
Other causes include:
- Muscle imbalance
- High-heeled shoes or tight footwear in the toe box can crowd your toes into a space that's not large enough for them to lie flat.
- Injuries in which you stub, jam, or break a toe.
- Nerve injuries or disorders.
Treatment typically involves wearing shoes with soft, roomy toe boxes and toe exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles. Commercially available straps, cushions, or non-medicated corn pads may also relieve symptoms.
In severe cases, hammertoe surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity.
Treatment Options for Corns
Everything You Need to Know about Corns
Corns, often confused with calluses, are thick layers of dead skin cells on your toes that feel bumpy and rough. Calluses are usually a little bigger, while corns are a bit more distinct with a recognizable small, round shape.
Corns can be pesky, but you can alleviate the pain and drive them off with some simple treatments and methods of prevention. Most treatment options for corns are available over the counter. However, if you aren't sure of what's plaguing your toe pain, Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin is just one phone call away. Find out more about corns