What are the symptoms of hammer toe and how is it diagnosed?
Ultimately, hammer toe is the result of a muscle imbalance, muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend joints. When the toe is bent in one position for too long the muscles and joints tighten and cannot stretch out. In severe cases, they become fixed and this is termed a rigid hammer toe.
If the joint is still flexible, you may be able to straighten it out by forcing it into a straight position. However, without exerting effort to maintain a straight toe, the deformity will return. A flexible hammertoe can become rigid over time, so it is important to seek care for hammer toe before the condition progresses. It is considered a rigid hammer toe when the tendons of the toe contract, tighten, and force the joint out of alignment. Once the joint is severely affected, you cannot move the toe and it is permanently bent.
Additional symptoms may include:
- Pain while walking or wearing shoes
- Difficulty walking
- Swelling or redness
- Corns or callus on the top of the joints
- Difficulty walking
What is the treatment for hammer toe?
To determine whether hammer toe surgery may be the best solution for you, Dr. Haytmanek will perform a physical examination to determine if the toe joint is flexible or rigid and may obtain X-rays.
Non- Surgical treatment:
In the early stages, when your joints are still flexible, some simple measures can be taken to slow or reverse symptoms. Changing footwear can be very helpful. Since women’s footwear is often designed in such a way that it puts feet in uncomfortable or unnatural positions, women are more prone to hammer toe and footwear is often a major factor. Avoiding tight and narrow shoes can make a drastic difference. The best shoes to avoid a hammer toe correction will have a soft, roomy toe box.
Additionally, some specific exercises can help stretch and strengthen the muscles in the foot. Dr. Haytmanek can create a stretching protocol for you that addresses your specific needs and helps you avoid hammer toe surgery.
If a problematic toe joint still has a range of flexibility, hammer toe correction can be done by lengthening the tendons that are causing the joint deformity. This type of procedure is reserved for flexible hammer toe deformities that are causing significant problems with shoe wear.
If non-surgical treatments do not relieve your symptoms or your toe joint is rigid, Dr. Haytmanek may recommend surgery. Hammer toe correction typically involves an incision over the prominent bone, lengthening the surrounding tendons and ligaments and shortening the bone. A removable wire or metallic implant can be used to hold the toe in a corrected position.
For ridged toe joints, Dr. Haytmanek may remove the ridged joint by removing the end of the bone at the joint and will secure it in a straight position temporarily with pins. Depending on the severity of the hammer toe, this procedure involves removing a small part of the bone to extend the toe fully and a wire or permanent implant will be put in place while the bones fuse.
How long does hammer toe correction surgery take and what can I expect from the procedure?
Hammer toe correction is typically an outpatient procedure; however, the actual procedure will depend on the specific needs of the patient, and the type and extent of the deformity. Recovery time is typically 4-6 weeks before the patient can resume normal activities and 6 months for a full recovery. Dr. Haytmanek will direct patients movement and/or taping of the toes after surgery to ensure the best long-term outcome following hammer toe correction.