Although the joints in your toes are very small, they perform a vital function throughout each and every day in your life. Your toe joints have to be healthy and strong to bear your weight reliably and painlessly. When you have pain in the joint of your big toe, it can make you feel miserable all over. Unfortunately, pain in the big toe joint is quite common.
In this article, we will discuss five conditions that can cause this pain. We will also offer sound advice on dealing with these causes.
You will learn:
- Why does my big toe hurt at the joint?
- Why do I have a sharp pain in my big toe?
- What nerve affects the big toe?
Read on to learn more.
Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis cause pain in your joints. In the case of the big toe joint, osteoarthritis, caused by injury or wear and tear on the joints, is the usual culprit. If you are experiencing swelling, stiffness, pain and a grinding sensation in the joint when walking, suspect osteoarthritis.
If left untreated, this condition can progress into a condition known as hallux rigidus or limitus, which causes the big toe joints to become stiff and inflexible. Bone spurs may also develop on the top of the toe joint causing pain, inflammation and swelling.
These knobby growths are often mistaken for bunions, but a bunion forms on the side of the joint, not the top. Even so, bone spurs can cause the joint to become misaligned, forcing the great toe to point toward (or overlap) the others, just as a bunion would.
Talk with your doctor or podiatrist about therapy to relieve the pain of arthritis. He or she may recommend use of over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription pain medications along with gentle stretching and exercise to maintain joint flexibility.
Sometimes doctors recommend injecting steroids into the joint. Very supportive shoes may also be helpful. In some cases physical therapy is recommended. Bone spurs can be surgically removed.
2. Inflammation of the sesamoid bones
Inflammation of the sesamoid bones can cause severe pain. These two small bones are located within the tendon that allows the great toe to flex downward. If these bones are injured, fractured or worn, they can become inflamed and very painful.
People who partake of activities such as basketball, ballet and other forms of exercise that involve jumping or balancing on the toes are subject to this malady.
Because these bones are so tiny and bear so much weight, it can be difficult to treat a fracture or sesamoiditis (inflammation of the sesamoid bones). For sesamoiditis, rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE) and the use of crutches to entirely eliminate weight-bearing may be in order. Fractured sesamoid bones may need surgical treatment.
Use of footwear with a firm sole or a rocker sole may be recommended. Supportive orthotics and especially arch supports may also help.
3. Turf toe
Turf toe is another big toe joint injury that is often the result of playing sports such as soccer or football on artificial turf. The hard, somewhat slick surface can cause excessive force during flexion of the toe joint.
Symptoms of turf toe include pain and swelling and sometimes bruising. Treat turf toe as you would sesamoiditis with RICE treatment, OTC pain relievers and the use of crutches. If the strain is severe, see your doctor or podiatrist. Surgery may be required.
Gout (aka: podagra) is a metabolic condition that is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood. This results in crystals of uric acid gathering in and around the big toe joint.
This situation causes pain, swelling, inflammation and fever in the joint. If not properly treated, the joint may become damaged and palpable, visible deposits of uric acid my form on the toe.
It can be hard for doctors to diagnose gout or gouty arthritis because visible symptoms are similar to those of joint infection. A blood test for uric acid levels can clear up the confusion. A test of the joint fluid can confirm the diagnosis.
Although use of medications to lower uric acid levels, along with pain relievers can help alleviate symptoms of gout, a holistic approach involving weight loss and a specific diet aimed at reducing uric acid levels must also be employed.
A diet that is rich in low-fat dairy products, whole grains and veggies and low in fat, seafood, red meat and sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup) is recommended. If you are prone to gout, you must not drink alcohol.
Regular exercise will also help stabilise your metabolism. Swimming is a good choice for people experiencing foot pain. Soaking your feet in a warm Epsom salts bath can also help relieve symptoms almost instantly.
Bunions (aka: hallux valgus deformity) are large, knobby bumps that can develop around the big toe joint. Many people think that a bunion is a bony growth on the joint, but it is actually misalignment and malpositioning of the joint.
A bunion forms when the big toe joint (hallux valgus) shifts and causes the great toe to point toward the lesser toes. As time passes, the forefoot becomes wider, and the joint may become even more swollen and inflamed.
Bunions may be caused by rheumatoid arthritis or by chronic wearing of constricting and improper footwear. To relieve painful bunions, you may just need to change your footwear. Look for flat, cushioned, supportive shoes that have a roomy toe box and stretchy tops. This type of shoe helps relieve pressure on your bunion.
Other steps that may be helpful include:
- Bunion exercises – flex your toes and stretch your feet frequently to maintain mobility in your joints.
- It may help to put a pad over your bunion to prevent irritation and rubbing.
- Talk with your doctor or podiatrist about use of OTC pain relievers.
- Use RICE to alleviate inflammation and soothe your feet.
If these simple solutions don’t work, your podiatrist may prescribe orthotics and/or special footwear. He or she may also recommend use of a night splint to help straighten your toe as you sleep. If all else fails, you may need surgery to correct the problem.
Disclaimer: Pedi Reviews does not provide medical advice, treatment or diagnosis.