Hammertoe is considered to be among the most common toe deformities. Knowing how painful walking with a hammertoe can be, treating it is the key. But can you really fix it? Today, we explore questions such as how does a hammer toe look like and how to fix hammertoe.
What Is A Hammer Toe?
Hammer’s toe is a deformity that characterizes itself with bending or curling of the toe downward instead of being positioned in the normal straight forward position. Most often, it is the second or third toe that is affected, but other toes can be affected as well. Over time, as the deformity progresses, eventually, the toe is stuck in a claw-like position.
What Causes A Hammer Toe?
Although a person can be born with a hammertoe, the most common cause for this deformity seems to be wearing short, narrow shoes that are too tight and is not properly fitted. This leads to a situation where the toe is bent upward while wearing the shoes. With time, the tendons and muscles of the toe become shorter, causing the toe to stay bent, thus resulting in a hammertoe. Wearing high heels often also increases the risk of developing hammertoe. Arthritis and a traumatic toe injury are also listed as causes for hammertoe.
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Symptoms/Characteristics Of A Hammer Toe
The most characteristic symptom is the upward bent toe. At first, the individual is able to strengthen the toe forward. However, this becomes more and more painful as the condition progresses. Blisters may occur as well, as a result of the hammertoe rubbing against the inside of the shoe. Walking, especially while wearing shoes, will become quite painful with time.
Can You Reverse A Hammer Toe?
A hammertoe is easily diagnosed by performing a simple physical exam. But of course, the main question is – Is hammertoe a reversible deformity? The answer depends on your current condition. In general, a hammertoe can be reversed, but the methods that are going to be used depends on how far your hammertoe has progressed.
If it is a mild case of hammertoe, the treatment plan usually consists of using over-the-counter painkillers and physical therapy to help relieve the symptoms and improve the deformity. However, in the case of a severe hammertoe, your doctor will recommend surgery. In most cases, this is an outpatient procedure, done by applying only a local anesthetic. Surgery aims to reposition the affected toe, removing any deformed bone, and realign the tendons to relieve the symptoms.
How To Fix Hammer Toe Without Surgery?
In the milder cases of hammertoe, the following treatment methods are usually applied;
- Splinting the hammer toe to keep it straight, stretch out the tendons and muscles of the toe and the foot;
- Exercising to increase the flexibility of the toe and the entire foot, relaxing the tendons and muscles;
- Using over-the-counter painkillers to reduce the pain;
- Applying cold pads to reduce any pain, swelling, and soreness of the toe and the foot;
- Wearing toe pads or insoles;
- Wearing properly fitted shoes etc.
How To Fix Hammertoe With Tape?
Taping the affected toe is also a common treatment method for hammertoe. However, this is only possible in milder cases where the affected toe is still flexible. All that you need is a piece of tape. You will need to wrap the tape under the big toe, over the hammer toe, and under the toe next to the hammertoe to help keep it in a straight position. This works similar to the method of splinting that we mentioned before.
Exercising can be really beneficial in any phase of the treatment.
- You can use your hands to gently stretch and move the affected toe, increasing its flexibility.
- Picking up various small and bigger things using your toes is also a great exercise that you can use.
- Picking up marbles and towels seem to do the trick to correct a hammertoe efficiently.
- You can also put a towel under your foot and use your toes to crumple it, a popular exercise known as towel curls.
Hammertoe, being as common as it is, requires treatment as soon as possible, as a way to eliminate the uncomfortable symptoms that it causes. The good news, of course, is the fact that hammertoe can be easily treated, especially in its earliest stages. By applying the methods of physical therapy, a hammertoe can be easily eliminated from one’s life. Explore how to fix hammer toe and help yourself get rid of its symptoms.
Doctor, author and fitness enthusiast, Ahmed Zayed, MD, is a surgery resident with a passion for helping people live a happy healthy life. He is the author of numerous health-related books and contributor to several medicine, health and wellbeing.