When the muscles and ligaments around the joint of the big toe become imbalanced a hammer toe can develop. The middle joint of the toe begins to bend into an unusual position and stays off balance when a hammer toe has formed. Generally, the bent toe will be exposed to increased rubbing and friction which can cause pain and irritation of the skin. Hammer toes can occasionally be found on toes which curl, typically the smallest toes. Since the heels and pointed shoes often worn by women put a great deal of pressure on the toes and feet, women develop hammer toes more often than men. Those with diabetes or poor circulation can be especially plagued by hammer toes. There are two forms of the condition:
The muscles in our toes work in pairs. When these muscles are no longer in balance, when one is stronger than the other, and don’t work together a hammer toe develops. This causes pressure to build up on the tendons and joints. This pressure makes the toe form the hammerhead shape. The imbalance is usually caused by:
Signs or symptoms include:
Wearing different shoes which fit they way they should can alleviate the pressure on the toe joint(s) and help it to return to its normal position. When the hammertoe is very severe, surgery could be necessary. Surgery will be utilized when other therapies, such as orthotics and special footwear, have not been successful. Typically, physical therapy and anti-inflammatories will be used before undergoing to surgery.