Hallux rigidus is a form of advanced arthritis, caused by a disorder of the joint at the base of the big toe. It becomes swollen and painful to the touch, and with time is increasingly difficult to bend. “Hallux” refers to the big toe, while “rigidus” indicates that the toe is rigid and cannot move.
The major cause of hallux rigidus is joint trauma, typically the result of prior athletic or work-related injuries. Risk factors include a long first metatarsal bone, which can lead to excessive wear of the joint and, eventually, arthritis.
To receive a diagnosis, a qualified healthcare professional in musculoskeletal disorders or a podiatric foot and ankle surgeon will take a medical history and conduct a thorough examination of your feet and ankles. Before this examination you will also need to have a full set of foot and ankle x-rays taken while you are standing and putting full weight on your feet. With this information in hand, a carefully individualized treatment plan is then organized to suit the proper correction of your disorder.
Conservative treatment involves the occasional use of NSAIDs (such as Motrin or Aleve) and stiff sole shoes. The most successful treatment for severe hallux rigidus is joint fusion. In the very early stages of the condition, the joint can be cleaned and the first metatarsal bone shortened. Rarely are joint replacements an option as they do not last very long in active people of any age.