How to Identify and Manage Hammer Toe


Many times, people overlook the importance of the feet, especially when they are functioning as they should. However, when you notice any abnormal bend in the toe that causes pain and limited mobility, chances are that you are suffering from hammer toe. In that case, your feet deserve maximum attention, especially when they need to undergo surgery to fix them. As much as possible, you want to choose the right doctors who have a proven track record of producing successful surgical outcomes.

Causes of Hammer toe 

Hammer toe is mostly associated with too much pressure on the toe tendons and joints, caused by muscle imbalance. The body muscles work in pairs to bend and straighten the toes. Therefore, in a situation where the toe is bent long enough, the muscles and joints may fail to stretch out. Here are some common causes of hammer toe:

  • Certain shoes: Putting on high-heeled shoes that are too tight can crowd toes. Since your toes can’t lie flat in tight shoes, they might remain curled even when not in shoes.
  • Trauma: A toe that has been traumatized before might be more likely to develop a hammer toe.
  • Imbalance of the toe muscles: In a situation where the muscles aren’t balanced, the pressure ends up on the tendons and joints, which causes an imbalance that eventually leads to hammer toe.
  • Sex: Research shows that women are more likely to develop a hammer toes than their male counterparts.
  • Certain diseases: Certain conditions such as arthritis and diabetes are also known to increase the risk of having foot problems. People with diabetes are at increased risk for hammer toe. A toe with corn indicates too much pressure on the toes. People with diabetes have poor blood flow that can lead to the loss of a toe or foot when their shoes are modified.
  • Genes: The shape of the foot you have may predispose you to develop a hammer toe. Flat, flexible feet that struggle to stabilize against a flattening arch can lead to hammer toes. Feet with high arches have extensor tendons that overpower the flexors.

Symptoms of Hammer toe 

Hammer toe causes the unusual bending of the joints of the toes. Here are the symptoms associated with this condition including:

  • Redness and swelling at your joint
  • Growth of corns and calluses from rubbing against shoes or the ground.
  • Pain from wearing shoes.
  • Difficulty moving the affected toe.
  • Toe stiffness.
  • Restricted motion of your toe joint

Diagnosis and Prognosis of Hammer toe

  • Diagnosis

You need to see your doctor when the condition affects more than one toe of the same foot. If the condition is treated early, it is possible to reduce pain and walking problems, thus you can avoid surgery. Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis by physically examining your feet to confirm that the toe is bent and the muscles are contracted. If hammer toe has caused a significant change in the bone structure or the symptoms suggest nerve irritation, called a neuroma, the doctor may recommend diagnostic imaging.

  • Prognosis 
  1. Always put on shoes that are high and broad 
  2. Buy non-medicated hammer toe pads 
  3. Massaging the toe gently to relieve pain.
  4. Use ice packs on the hammer toe to reduce pain
  5. Use drugs that reduce inflammation 
  6. Practice foot exercises to restore muscle balance.
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