Hallux rigidus is a disorder of the joint located at the base of the big toe. It causes pain and stiffness in the joint and with time it gets increasingly hard to bend the toe. 'Hallux' refers to the big toe, while "rigidus" indicates that the toe is rigid and cannot bend. Hallux rigidus is actually a form of degenerative arthritis. This disorder can be very troubling and even disabling because we use the big toe whenever we walk, stoop down, climb up, or even stand.
For some people, hallux rigidus runs in the family and is a result of inheriting a foot type that is prone to developing this condition. In other cases, it is associated with overuse. This is especially true amongst people who are engaged in activities or jobs that increase the stress on the big toe, such as workers who often have to stoop or squat. Hallux rigidus can also result from an injury, such as stubbing your toe. Or, it may be caused by inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
Most patients report an increase in pain and stiffness if hallux rigidus is not treated. This can also lead to decreased mobility. Patients may also experience pain in the ball or the outside of the foot. This is due to them walking on the outside of their foot to avoid pressure on the big toe which can be very painful.
You may wish to consider modifications to your shoes. A shoe with a larger toe box would reduce the pressure on your toe. Shoes with a pointed toe or a high heel should be avoided due to the pressure that they create on the toe.
If early treatment is sought, in many cases this can prevent the requirement of surgery in the future. Typical treatment options for the treatment of hallux rigidus would include custom made orthotics which would improve foot function and medications such as ibuprofen which would help to reduce the pain and inflammation. Surgery would be considered as a last resort if conservative treatments had not provided any relief to the patient's symptoms.