How Is Hammertoe Treated?
When one of your toes starts staying permanently in a curled position, you can be pretty confident that you have hammertoe. This condition is the result of an imbalance between the ligaments and muscles in your toe joint. The ligaments shorten, causing the toe not to straighten properly at its middle joint. If you suspect you have hammertoe, it's important to seek treatment from a podiatrist. Depending on the severity of your condition, he or she may recommend one or more of these treatments.
Proper Shoes and Orthotics
Oftentimes, hammertoe is caused at least in part by wearing shoes that are too narrow and cramp the toes. High heels -- especially stilettos -- are some of the worst culprits. If your hammertoe is in the beginning stages, all you may need to do is switch to shoes with low heels and more ample room in the toe box. Your podiatrist can recommend orthotics or splints that will fit into your shoe and keep your toe in the proper position during the day. Over a period of a few months, the tendons will slowly lengthen and your toe will be remain flat on its own again.
For moderate cases of hammertoe that make it difficult or painful to walk, your podiatrist may recommend corticosteroid injections. These injections are made directly into the affected toe joint. The steroids help reduce inflammation, which may make it possible for the tendons to relax and the joint to straighten back out. However, in more severe cases of hammertoe, injections alone are not always enough to correct the issue.
NSAIDS like naproxen and ibuprofen are often recommended to help alleviate the pain. Your podiatrist will likely recommend using these medications only as needed, such as on days when the pain is overly bad and interfering with your ability to walk.
If your hammertoe has reached the point where you cannot straighten your toe even if you use your fingers to press on it, then injections and orthotics are not going to fix the problem. You'll need surgery. Surgery is also often performed when the hammertoe begins rubbing on the shoe and causing open wounds.The procedure involves cutting and lengthening the tendons. It is often performed on an out-patient basis, and while you'll probably have to undergo a little physical therapy while you recover, most patients recovery with no major difficulties and are able to walk without pain once their toes heal.
If you suspect you have hammertoe, don't ignore your symptoms. The sooner you see a podiatrist, the lower your chances of needing surgery.