Hallux Limitus is the precursor of a more serious arthritis-related condition known as Hallux Rigidus. What are these conditions? What causes them, and how can they be prevented? In this article, we will explore these questions and provide sound advice on avoiding and dealing with Hallux Limitus and Hallux Rigidus. Read on to learn more.
What is it?
“Hallux” is Latin for “big toe”. Hallux Limitus is the term used to describe limited range-of-motion (ROM) of the big toe. Hallux Rigidus describes the condition in which the big toe cannot move at all. Both conditions are painful.
Hallux Limitus is a form of osteoarthritis. While it does cause pain, it usually does not prevent ambulation (walking and moving about). Even so, it’s important to see your podiatrist right away if you begin to feel persistent pain in the joint of your big toe because leaving this condition untreated will lead to extreme pain along with loss of movement over time.
Eventually, the condition will worsen and become Hallux Rigidus. Your big toe joint will become completely immovable. You will not be able to stand or put weight on it without a great deal of pain. This can definitely affect your ability to get around and enjoy life. It can also affect your overall health.
What are the symptoms?
You will begin to feel pain in your big toe joint when the cartilage that pads the joint starts wearing thin. The pain is caused by unpadded, bone-on-bone motion.
You will notice that the pain in your big toe becomes worse when you push it upward (or when you walk and it flexes upward). Your pain may worsen in cold, damp weather.
The entire joint may begin to feel tight and inflexible. The top part of the joint may swell and become very inflamed.
See your podiatrist as soon as you begin noticing these symptoms. Even though he or she may not be able to pinpoint your pain via x-ray, your description of the symptoms, visible inflammation and loss of ROM will give your doctor enough information to make some sound treatment recommendations.
This constant, intense pain can lead to difficulty wearing any shoes. It can cause ambulation to become difficult or impossible, and this can mean pain and difficulties in the rest of your body due to lack of exercise and asymmetrical gait.
Pain in the knees, hips and lower back are common side effects of Hallux Rigidus, as is weight gain. Naturally, you want to avoid chronic pain for its own sake and because use of prescription pain-killers can even further complicate and disrupt your life.
How is Hallux Limitus treated?
PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation) is effective at-home therapy that you can use on your own at any time. Remember to always wear shoes that comfortably protect your painful big toe from further harm. Put your feet up whenever you can, and use an ice pack to help soothe pain and inflammation.
Following ice treatment, wrapping your foot securely in a warmed towel and elevating it will help increase blood circulation and provide further pain relief.
Depending upon the level of your pain and the philosophy of your podiatrist, he or she may recommend a variety of treatments including steroid injections to the joint, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain killers, foot soaks, heat and ice, acupuncture and other standard arthritis pain treatments to help deal with your pain and inflammation.
Prescription orthotic devices may also help correct the problem and address pain. These may include:
- Morton’s Extensions provide rigid support and effectively redistribute weight.
- Turf-Toe Plates work to limit ROM and stabilize the toe.
- Accommodative Foam Cushions pad and protect the toe.
There are also several surgical procedures designed to address this condition at various stages of development. They are:
- The Keller Procedure creates a pseudo-joint by removing the base of the existing joint.
- Osteotomy is used to adjust the length and alignment of the existing bone.
- Arthrotomy is minor repair of damage to the joint.
Your doctor may also recommend specific footwear, such as rocker-bottom shoes, stiff-soled shoes or shoes with a metatarsal bar. Athletic shoes that are designed to address over-pronation can also be helpful.
Will insoles help?
Good insoles can definitely help with this condition and many other painful foot conditions. When you see your podiatrist, he or she may prescribe custom orthotics to help take the pressure off your big toe joint. Alternately, your doctor may recommend specific over-the-counter orthotic inserts.
Be sure to use your orthotics consistently. Outfit all of your shoes with them, and remember to use proper support in your slippers, as well. If you wear sandals, ask your doctor to recommend a good brand that will support your feet properly. Be careful not to expose your big toes to potential injury, though!
How can you avoid Hallux Limitus?
There are some causes of this condition that simply can’t be avoided. For example, if there is a history of severe arthritis in your family, you are more likely to develop it yourself.
Other genetic causes of this condition include gait problems, such as over-pronation in which your foot tends to roll inward as you walk causing your arch and big toe to carry a lot of your weight. If you have very high arches, this can also cause excessive amounts of weight to be distributed to the big toes.
Abnormalities of your big toes can also cause Hallux Limitus. For example, if your great toe is always flexed (elevated big toe) it can cause excessive wear on the cartilage that pads the joint. Having very long big toes can also cause this problem.
Naturally, as you age, your body will experience some wear and tear. While this is somewhat unavoidable, there are quite a few things you can do to mitigate the damage. Making a few smart, everyday choices can help you avoid developing this painful condition.
Wear high-quality, properly supportive footwear. Don’t wear high heels, and don’t wear shoes that are too tight, too loose or don’t provide proper support. Well-fitted shoes built with ample room in the toe box, good arch support and a deep, stabilising heel cup can help you prevent a wide variety of painful foot conditions (see our selection of Hallux Limitus shoes).
Avoid squatting while gardening or performing other chores that are low to the ground. Use a little stool, kneel on a knee pad or sit down on the ground. Squatting puts a lot of pressure on your big toe joints.
Turn on lights when you have to get up at night. Stubbing your big toe can damage the cartilage in the joint, cause severe injury and lead to the development of Hallux Limitus.
Mind your form when walking, running or exercising. Learn and practice good posture and good running and exercise techniques. The way you stand and move has a tremendous effect on the way weight is distributed on the soles of your feet and the amount of pressure applied to your big toe joints.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced, whole foods diet that consists mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables. Add flavor and reduce inflammation with spices such as turmeric, curry mixes, cayenne pepper and a wealth of other tasty flavorings that have been proven helpful in combating pain and inflammation caused by arthritis.
Avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, processed food-like substances, hydrogenated oils and sodas. Make pure, filtered water your favorite drink. Staying well-hydrated is key to battling arthritis pain and staying healthy.
Disclaimer: Pedi Reviews does not provide medical advice, treatment or diagnosis.