In addition to being unsightly, hammertoes can become arthritic and painful. You may find it difficult to wear your favorite pair of shoes. Corns and calluses may develop between toes, on the balls of your feet, or on the toe where it rubs against the inside of your shoe. In the worst cases, open sores may form at these trouble spots.
Hammertoes start out relatively flexible. Although the toe won’t straighten by itself, you can push it back into position temporarily using your hands.
However, over time the hammertoe becomes more and more rigid and arthritic. As this happens, it becomes much more likely that you’ll suffer from painful complications.
The underlying cause of hammertoes is an imbalance in the muscles and tendons used to control the toe. Under normal circumstances, muscles work in pairs to contract or extend a joint. However, with hammertoes, the muscles responsible for extending the toe aren’t strong enough to straighten it anymore.
This can happen for a number of reasons, including neurological conditions and injuries to the toe. Certain inherited foot types are more likely to develop hammertoes—for example, people with second toes that are longer than their first toes. Hammertoes do tend to run in families.
Any time you visit Silicon Valley Podiatry Group with a potential problem, we’ll perform a comprehensive examination and talk to you in detail about your symptoms, your concerns, and your goals. We can even provide an in-office X-ray or diagnostic ultrasound to get a clear look at the bones and soft tissues surrounding the bent joint.
We do this for a couple of reasons. First, hammertoes are frequently associated with other foot problems, including neuromas, bunions, and more. A comprehensive exam will help us detect any other problem areas that may need attention, before they become a severe problem.
Second, we want to really get to know you and understand what you’re going through, and the lifestyle you want to live. This helps us customize our treatment plan to match your needs.
Flexible hammertoes can usually be corrected via a minor surgical procedure, performed outpatient at our San Jose office. If you can straighten your toe with your fingers, a tendon or capsular release procedure can usually allow to straighten out the toe.
If your hammertoe is rigid, or you’re experiencing daily pain and discomfort, a more significant surgery that involves cutting and realigning the toe bones, or in some cases fusing the joint, may be necessary.
Timetables will of course vary from person to person, but about 70 to 80 percent of our patients experience no significant downtime after the surgery thanks to the advanced procedures we use. Although it may take a few weeks to fully heal, most people can go back to walking, working, and moderately paced daily activities within a day or two.
Can surgery be avoided entirely?
If the hammertoe is still flexible and not causing any pain, we may be able to help you manage your discomfort with shoe adjustments, custom orthotics, splinting the toe, or padding corns and calluses.
Unfortunately, conservative treatments can not reverse a hammertoe that has already been bent, and usually cannot stop it from slowly progressing. So such treatments may only be temporary.
That said, we will look at all available options that may be successful and customize a treatment plan that is the best overall fit for your needs. To schedule an appointment with us in San Jose, please call (408) 358-2666 today.