Hallux Limitus: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Any arthritic condition can make life difficult and painful. When that arthritis affects your big toe, a condition called hallux limitus, the impact on your mobility and quality of life can be profound.

The hallux is the joint that connects the big toe to the foot. The primary effect of hallux limitus is limiting the flexibility of this joint, which in turn makes it difficult to bend the big toe. While this inflexibility may not seem like a big deal, it can lead to severe pain, mainly when walking. Making matters worse, progression of the condition can lead to bone spurs and ultimately make the joint completely rigid, a condition known as hallux rigidus.

Symptoms of Hallux Limitus

Starting out mild, the symptoms of hallux limitus gradually worsen over time. Among those symptoms are:

  • Pain at the top of the joint that gets worse when walking or engaging in other activities that bend the hallux
  • Difficulty flexing your big toe
  • Tingling or numbness in and around your toe
  • A bony lump appearing on the top of your big toe joint
  • a callus under the joint due to increased pressure
  • knee, hip, or lower back pain of the condition causes you to change your stride.

Causes of Hallux Limitus

There are several reasons why hallux limitus develops, some of which have to do with a genetic predisposition for the condition while others are the result of lifestyle and activities. The causes of hallux limitus include: 

  • An elevated or unusually long metatarsal joint or first metatarsal bone
  • Injuries and trauma, such as toe sprains, a broken toe, or severely stubbing your toe
  • Overuse caused by activities that involve putting repeated pressure on your toes
  • Ill-fitting footwear or high heels that put added stress on the toe joint
  • A family history of hallux limitus

Treatment for Hallux Limitus

The good news is that conservative treatment approaches are often sufficient to resolve the pain, discomfort, and progression of hallux limitus. These include:

  • Wearing properly fitting shoes that don’t put undue pressure on your big toe and the hallux
  • Wearing shoes with a rigid sole
  • Avoiding shoes with heels higher than one inch
  • Reducing pressure on the joint with a soft gel pad
  • Over-the-counter or custom orthotics
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Icing the joint two or three times a day for 15 minutes

If these approaches do not provide the desired relief, your podiatrist may recommend corticosteroid injections. For extreme cases or those that have progressed to hallux rigidus, surgery may be necessary.  However, advances in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) often allow us to treat the condition without the pain, discomfort, recovery time, and other unwelcome aspects of traditional surgery.

The dedicated foot and ankle specialists at JAWSpodiatry pride themselves on being pioneers in the field of minimally invasive foot and ankle surgical techniques.

Our Dr. Abraham Wagner is the founder of the Minimally Invasive Foot and Ankle Surgical Institute (MIFAS). He is specially and extensively trained in MIS procedures and continues to lead the efforts to make these innovative treatments more available for those suffering from foot and ankle problems.

Call JAWSpodiatry Today For Relief From Foot and Ankle Pain

At JAWSpodiatry in Hollywood, Florida, we utilize the most advanced and non-invasive techniques to reduce pain and speed recovery for individuals suffering from foot and ankle problems. Please call us today at (954) 922-7333 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. We look forward to the opportunity to help you.