A Hammer toes
is a toe that is bent because of a muscle imbalance around the toe joints. The
imbalance causes the toe to bend at one or more joints, pushing the middle of the toe upward in a claw-like position. If you notice such changes, it is important to seek proper treatment. Hammer toes
never get better without some type of intervention and the sooner it is treated, the better the outcome.
Footwear is actually the leading cause of this type of toe deformity so much so that people sometimes require hammer toe surgery to undo some of the damage. The most common problem is wearing shoes
that are too short, too narrow or too tight. These shoes constricts the feet and force the toes into a bend position. Women are more at risk especially due to high heels. Footwear isn?t the only
problem, poor foot posture can lead to muscle and even bone imbalances. This asymmetry can cause excessive strain on the toes either by forcing the toe into unnatural positions. Arthritis can also
play a factor in the development of hammer toe, especially if the toe joint is stiff and incapable of a full range of motion.
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to hammer toe. Talk to your doctor about symptoms such as a toe that curls down, corns on the top of a toe, calluses on the sole of the foot
or bottom of the toe, pain in the middle joint of a toe, discomfort on the top of a toe, difficulty finding any shoes that fit comfortably, cramping in a toe, and sometimes also the foot and leg,
difficult or painful motion of a toe joint, pain in the ball of the foot or at the base of a toe.
Your healthcare provider will examine your foot, checking for redness, swelling, corns, and calluses. Your provider will also measure the flexibility of your toes and test how much feeling you have
in your toes. You may have blood tests to check hammertoes
diabetes, and infection.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the toes are still mobile enough that they are able to stretch out and lay flat, the doctor will likely suggest a change of footwear. In addition, she may choose to treat the pain that may result
from the condition. The doctor may prescribe pads to ease the pain of any corns and calluses, and medications ranging from ibuprofen to steroid injections for the inflammation and pain. Other options
for non-surgical treatments include orthotic devices to help with the tendon and muscle imbalance or splinting to help realign the toe. Splinting devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes but the
purpose of each is the same: to stretch the muscles and tendon and flatten the joint to remove the pain and pressure that comes from corns.
If these treatments are not sufficient at correcting the hammer toe, an operation to straighten the toe may be necessary. This is often performed in conjunction with surgery for a bunion deformity.
The surgical treatment of a hammer toe can consist of either cutting the tendons to relieve the pressure that causes the deformity, or fusing the toe so that it points straight permanently.
If you notice the beginning signs of hammertoe, you may be able to prevent the tendons from tightening by wearing toe-friendly shoes, by flattening your toes regularly, and by soaking your feet every
day in warm water, then stretching your toes and ankles by pointing your toes. Foot exercises also can help to maintain or restore the flexibility of the tendons. One simple exercise is to place a
small towel on the floor and then pick it up using only your toes. You also can grasp at carpet with your toes or curl your toes up and down repeatedly.