A chronic arthritic condition called hallux rigidus—or stiff big toe—causes the joint of the big toe to become painfully inflamed and stiff, causing considerable pain, discomfort, and difficulty with simple standing, walking, and exercising. Whether you are conscious of it or not, your big toes are essential for climbing stairs and walking down the street. When the big toes become rigid and no longer bend properly, it can be very difficult to perform everyday activities without considerable pain.

Hallux rigidus may be mistaken for a bunion, but it is actually caused by osteoarthritis. This is the type of arthritis is caused by the wear and tear on the joints from normal aging.

Causes of big toe stiffness

Other symptoms and conditions that contribute to a big toe becoming stiff include the following:

  • Foot irregularities—Conditions including flat feet (or overpronation) and bunions can add to big toe stiffness.
  • Gouty arthritisRepeated flare-ups of gout can permanently damage the big toe joint.
  • Bone spurs—If left untreated, stiffness of the big toe joint can eventually cause bone spurs which can grow on top of the toe bones and impede normal toe movement.
  • Gait abnormalities—A change in walking style due to foot pain can cause the spine to become misaligned, creating additional problems with the knees and back.

Treatment for hallux rigidus consists of the use of custom orthotics to help redistribute stress and pressure, thereby relieving pain and discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy exercises, and steroid injections may all be used to increase toe movement.

Stiff big toe will usually not heal on its own, so it is important to see your foot care specialist for the right diagnosis and care and to prevent the condition from getting worse. At Podiatry Center of New Jersey, Dr. Russell Samofal treats a variety of conditions such as sports injuries, diabetic foot problemspediatric foot conditions, toe deformities, arthritisnail fungus, arch problems and heel pain. Equipped with advanced technologies and a dedicated staff, Podiatry Center of New Jersey provides individualized high quality care for patients all across Morris, Passaic, Bergen and Essex counties. For all your foot and ankle problems, contact our Wayne office at (973) 925-4111 for an appointment.