What is Hammertoe?
Take a look at your toes. If you have toes that curl up in the middle looking like little bent hammers, you most likely have hammertoes. Hammertoe can affect the second, third, fourth or little toe and become a fairly painful deformity.
A muscle or tendon imbalance is the most common cause of hammertoe. Structural changes in your foot could lead to the curling up of your toes. Stubbing, jamming or breaking a toe could also cause a hammertoe to develop and wearing certain shoes such as high heels is also a common cause for this toe deformity.
Will I Need Surgery to Treat My Hammertoes?
Hammertoes often start as a mild condition with the toes being bent but still flexible. There are many non-invasive and conservative treatments that can help manage the symptoms of a mild case of hammertoe. Unfortunately, hammertoes typically worsen over time. If they are left untreated, they can become rigid in nature and will not respond to more conservative treatment.
When hammertoes have become rigid and painful, surgery is often necessary to relieve symptoms and bring health and function back to your feet. Every patient is different and the severity of the hammertoe will dictate which kind of surgery is best. Some of the more common types of hammertoe surgery include:
Resection – In this procedure, Dr. Danciger removes and/or reshapes the bone of the joint that is preventing your toe from straightening out.
Arthrodesis – This is when the joint of the toe is fused to prevent it from returning to its bent and curled position. This procedure helps alleviate pain and the fused toe joint does not affect your ability to wear shoes, exercise or perform daily activities.
Tendon transfer – Sometimes a tight tendon causes the toe to bend unnaturally. This surgery takes the tendon from under your toe and places it on top to pull the toe into proper alignment. Sometimes the tendons are just partially cut to allow the toe to relax and straighten out.
Metatarsal shortening – There are times when a longer toe that is repetitively crunched in tight shoes results in a hammertoe. This surgery actually removes a portion of the long bone by the base of the toe giving it room to straighten out properly. This helps accommodate your feet in being able to wear shoes without the longer toe(s) being squished.
Surgery is often done on an outpatient basis with local anesthetic. Sedation is an option if the patient would prefer to sleep through the procedure. The type of surgery needed will ultimately depend on the severity of the condition. In most situations though, only a small incision is necessary so patients are able to go home that same day to recover.
It is advised that you remain off of your feet for two to three days, using crutches when needed. A surgical shoe will be necessary for three to four weeks to provide adequate room for your toes to heal. The time frame in returning to work often depends on the type of work the patient is involved and how much stress is put on feet. Once healing has completed, it will be important to choose footwear wisely. Certain shoes could cause the hammertoes to return.
If you have rigid, painful hammertoes and have tried conservative treatment without success, please contact us today for help. Dr. Danciger can evaluate your condition and assess if surgery is an option for you. Call our podiatric office at (760) 568-0108 or request an appointment online from our homepage.