Unless you are one of the people living with the discomfort of a hammertoe, you may not realize how painful the condition can be. Usually affecting the second, third or fourth toes of one or both feet, the condition gets its name from the hammer-like appearance of the afflicted toe or toes. In the initial stages, most hammertoes are able to move and flex relatively normally as the patient moves about. In later stages however, the hammertoe often becomes rigid or fixed, causing it to affect normal movement and become painful.
What causes hammertoe?
While hammertoes can be present from birth or associated with other conditions, such as arthritis, injury, peripheral nerve or spinal cord damage, many form from wearing ill-fitting shoes. The first symptoms of a hammertoe usually includes:
- a toe that begins to bend downward
- development of bunions, corns or calluses
- difficulty in flexing or moving the toe
- a claw-like appearance of one or more toes
- difficulty with normal walking
- pain when wearing some types of footwear or doing some activities
What can patients do to relieve hammertoe pain?
Once a hammertoe condition becomes severe and causes the toe or toes to become rigid and painful, your podiatrist will likely recommend surgery to help you regain normal movement and relieve the discomfort. In the initial stages, however, there are many things that hammertoe sufferers can do to help manage the condition and relieve the discomfort. These include choosing the footwear with the following features:
- heel height of two inches or less
- toe boxes that are wide and have room for toes to move comfortably
- shoes that fit well overall and offer comfort and support with no pressure points
Another way to decrease the discomfort of a hammertoe condition is to massage the entire foot, along with the toes, frequently to improve circulation and relax tight muscles. This is particularly effective after bathing or soaking the feet in warm water for several minutes. Massaging warm coconut oil on the feet and toes will help improve the condition of the skin and prevent the chapping, blisters, and cracking that can make hammertoes even more uncomfortable.
Many hammertoe sufferers can also find relief by simply taking a few moments each day to wiggle and stretch their feet. Doing this upon waking each morning before getting up, helps to invigorate the entire foot, including the toes. To do this, simply lift each foot and move it in both clockwise and counterclockwise circles, while wiggling and stretching the toes for a few moments.
If you are concerned about developing a hammertoe, or have one that is becoming worse, consulting with a reputable podiatrist, like those at Summit Foot & Ankle Specialists, will help you develop a proactive treatment plan to minimize pain and discomfort.