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Have you noticed your toes bending, particularly at the first joint? The bending takes on an upside-down V appearance when looked at from the side. This deformity commonly affects the second through fifth toes, or the lesser digits. There are two different types of hammertoes: flexible hammertoes and rigid hammertoes.

Flexible hammertoes can be diagnosed and treated while in the developmental stage, making this condition less severe. As the name implies, flexible hammertoes are moveable at the joint level. Rigid hammertoes, on the other hand, is a more severe condition since it can be seen in patients with aggressive arthritis or in patients who seek treatment after their condition has progressed. When the tendons in a rigid hammertoe stiffen, and the joint becomes deviated and fixed, surgery is indicated.

Typically, patients with hammertoes experience pain when pressure from footwear is applied at the top of the bent toe. This can result in the development of corns on the top of the joint.

Hammertoe is acquired due to disproportional balance of the muscles in the toes. This causes increased pressure on the tendons and joints of the toe, leading to its contracture. Genetic predisposition, trauma, wearing ill-fitting shoes for long periods of time, and/or arthritis can lead to hammertoe.

Conservative treatments include wearing a hammertoe pad or cushion around the bony prominence of the hammertoe, wearing shoes with a deep toe box, avoiding high heels, and avoiding wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. If these treatment options do not relieve your pain, please visit a podiatrist.

Your podiatrist can identify the relative stage of your hammertoe. Identifying the deformity early in its progression is important to avoid surgery. Your podiatrist will evaluate and X-ray the affected area in order to create a treatment regimen particularly for your condition.

In case of acute pain and inflammation caused by joint deformity, anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed by your podiatrist.

A non-surgical method commonly used in controlling foot function is custom shoe inserts. This may alleviate symptoms and prevent the exacerbation of the hammertoe deformity. 

If surgery is indicated, your podiatrist can determine which procedures would most be appropriate for your hammertoe deformity.

With that said, if you experience pain and discomfort with your hammertoes, be sure to schedule an appointment to further seek professional care from one of our doctors at FootCare Associates in Hackettstown, New Jersey.

By Barry Mullen


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