The big toe plays a crucial role in standing, walking, and daily activities. It makes it possible for people to walk and run upright, and it absorbs forces equal to nearly twice a personâ€™s body weight when walking. With all that the big toe endures, it comes as no surprise that overuse can erode the joint cartilage and cause serious pain and even physical deformities.
Despite the obvious signs, big toe arthritis â€“ which occurs when cartilage in the joints wears down and exposed bones rub against each other â€“ is often overlooked, experts say. Foot and ankle surgeons urge people to pay attention to these signs early. With more treatment options and recent advancements, surgeons can help patients get back to doing the activities they love sooner.
For early-stage big toe arthritis, foot and ankle surgeons look first to conservative treatments to decrease pain in the joint, such as prescribing anti-inflammatory medication and increasing arch support with custom shoe inserts.
Big-toe arthritis usually develops in adults between the ages of 40 and 60 and is a progressive deformity that can be caused by regular wear-and-tear and sometimes even mechanical changes due to injury. Symptoms include stiffness, loss of range of motion, swelling, and sometimes noticeable cracking. Individuals with mid to end-stage arthritis tend to experience more severe pain because the cartilage has almost completely eroded and the bones are actually rubbing together.
Information on the problem and treatment is available at foothealthfacts.org, the patient-education website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.