Hallux Rigidus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Hallux rigidus is a condition in which the big toe joint stiffens and becomes immobile. The most common areas of the foot that it affects are the proximal interphalangeal joints, metatarsals, metacarpals, and phalanges. This condition can happen to anyone at any age at any time. Hallux rigidus is a difficult-to-treat condition that may require surgery if left untreated. Here, we will explore all aspects of hallux rigidus: causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Causes of hallux rigidus

Hallux rigidus can be caused by a variety of different factors, such as trauma, aging, and arthritis.

Trauma: A sudden change in one’s environment or lifestyle can cause hallux rigidus. For example, if someone who has never had problems with their big toe suddenly starts running and jumping on it day after day, this could lead to hallux rigidus.

Aging: Hallux rigidus is more likely to occur in people who are over the age of 60. This is because our joints start losing their elasticity and become stiffer as we age; making it easier for them to become locked up and immobile.

Arthritis: Arthritis is the most common cause of hallux rigidus. It can affect our joints, leading them to become stiff and un-flexible. The big toe joint is one of the most common areas that arthritis will effect because it takes a lot of pressure when we walk.

Hallux Rigidus Treatments

Halllux Rigidus can be treated with medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids to relieve pain and swelling. If these treatments don’t work there are other options such as surgery or orthotics which should be discussed with

Symptoms of hallux rigidus

One of the most common symptoms of hallux rigidus is stiffness in the big toe joint. Other symptoms include pain, soreness, and numbness in the toes. Patients may also experience discomfort when walking since they will be unable to bend their big toe. The hallux will feel locked in place and unable to move.

The treatment of hallux rigidus

There are two types of treatment that may be used to reduce the effects of hallux rigidus: conservative and surgical.

Conservative treatments include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, orthotics, and cortisone injections. These methods can help relieve pain and manage any discomfort with movement. If these treatments fail to provide relief, a surgical procedure can be performed.

There are many different types of surgical procedures for hallux rigidus, but the most common is called a Hallux Rigidus Release. A Hallux Rigidus Release is a minimally invasive procedure in which the surgeon cuts the ligaments that have caused stiffness in the big toe joint. The goal of this surgery is to reduce pain and relieve pressure on the joint as well as fix any deformities from previous injuries or arthritis. By releasing those ligaments, they now have even more room to move around freely without being restricted by those tight muscles and connective tissue like before.

This surgery procedure takes about an hour and has a short recovery period (usually 2 weeks). However, if there is severe deformity or arthritis present before the surgery it may take longer for you to recover.

Surgery for Hallux Rigidus

If you have tried to treat your hallux rigidus for a long time and it still does not work, surgery may be an option. Surgery is one of the most effective ways to treat hallux rigidus as it relieves pain and restores mobility in the big toe joint.

There are many different types of surgeries that involve removing parts of the bone or tissue from the foot or leg, but they all have similar goals: to relieve pressure on the joints where hallux rigidus occurs. A doctor will do a physical exam and MRI before recommending a surgical treatment plan.

Surgery is effective for treating hallux rigidus because it removes pressure from affected joints. The surgery will also make it easier to walk and can help with pain relief after a few weeks of healing. In some cases, surgery may be recommended if other treatments haven’t been successful. However, if you are hesitant about going under the knife, there are other ways to manage this condition.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Hallux Rigidus

Non-surgical treatments for hallux rigidus may include:

– Custom orthotics

– Night splints

– Corticosteroid injections

– Sclerotherapy

– Comfortable shoes and footwear

Custom Orthotics: Custom orthotics are made to treat hallux rigiduses by aligning the big toe with the others. The custom orthotics can be removed at night or when they’re not needed. If your doctor prescribes them, you will need to visit an orthotist.

Your visit with the orthotist may take up to two hours and there is a cost associated with this treatment. A study published in 2015 found that custom foot orthotic devices can provide significant relief of discomfort and pain associated with hallux rigidus.

Night Splints: Night splints are also used for treating hallux rigidus; however, these will need to be worn all night. They work by relaxing the big toe joint and straightening it out as you sleep so that it won’t stiffen during the day as much as it would if you didn’t wear a night splint. These devices are often relatively inexpensive and do not cause any discomfort from being worn overnight.

Hallux Rigidus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention
Hallux Rigidus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Prevention of hallux rigidus

It is possible to prevent hallux rigidus from happening. Some of the things you can do to reduce your risk of developing hallux rigidus are:

-Avoiding tight-fitting shoes

-Wearing proper footwear

-Taking steps to decrease pressure on the big toe

-Managing any underlying conditions that may be making your risk for hallux rigidus higher


Hallux rigidus is a difficult-to-treat condition that may require surgery if left untreated. The good news is, hallux rigidus can be treated by a podiatrist with nonsurgical methods. If you or someone you know has been experiencing symptoms of hallux rigidus, make an appointment with a podiatrist today.


How do you treat hallux rigidus at home?

  1. Warm up the foot with a hot pack
  2. Apply ice to reduce inflammation and pain
  3. Gently stretch your toes in different directions to keep them flexible
  4. Wear shoes that are wide enough for your feet but not too tight, which increases pressure on the joint
  5. Take anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium as directed by a doctor
  6. Get custom orthotics from an expert if you have been diagnosed with hallux rigidus or other foot condition such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, hammertoes, neuromas, etc.

Is walking good for hallux Rigidus?

Walking has been found to be a good choice for those suffering from hallux rigidus.

In many cases, there is no need for any other treatment as long as the person continues to engage in physical activity, such as walking. In some cases, operative intervention may be required. The surgical procedure used will depend on whether the problem has an origin high in the joint capsule or origin closer to its insertion onto the metatarsal head at its base of attachment where repair of a tear within this region should relieve pain and restore full function.

Is walking good for arthritis in the feet?

Walking can be good for arthritis in the feet, but not always.

It really depends on the severity of the arthritis and what an individual is comfortable with. Some people with mild arthritic conditions may find walking unfettered very therapeutic, whereas others who have more severe symptoms might prefer to use a cane or modify their gait by walking on different surfaces during their walks (e.g., grass indoors). Experimenting will determine if walking is good for your arthritis in the feet – it’s worth a try!

Does massage help hallux Rigidus?

It’s a safe alternative. If the foot pain doesn’t go away over time of consistent treatment, or if it worsens, you should see a podiatrist for an evaluation.

If your foot pain is from hallux rigidus, then luckily massage therapy can often be very helpful in alleviating the pain, and improving range of motion and mobility of the joint. However it won’t get rid of hallux rigidus.

In more advanced cases of hallux rigidus or when it hasn’t responded to conservative treatments like comfortable footwear and physical therapy jobs in months; seeing an orthopedic podiatrist would be the next best step!

How can I reduce inflammation in my big toe joint?

  1. Examine the type of shoe you are wearing
  2. Take a break from running to allow your big toe joint to rest
  3. Keep your shoes in good condition – don’t wear them too tight or too loose, and replace them when they start to wear down
  4. Give yourself time off after injuries so that the inflammation can heal on its own without any pressure while you’re walking around
  5. Stretch before exercising to loosen up sore joints
  6. Drink plenty of water throughout the day for hydration purposes

Can hallux Rigidus cause other problems?

Hallux Rigidus, or H.R., is a condition of the joint which causes it to become stiff and immobile due to changes in the ligaments where they attach (called arthrosis).

Sufferers may experience pain upon weight-bearing that comes and goes with use; typically inflammatory, swelling quality. If H.R is severe then it has been shown that those affected have hip osteoarthritis as well as back pain from causing too much pressure on them during postural movements.

What causes arthritis in big toe joint?

Aside from the traditional risk factors such as age and weight, there are other possibilities that can lead to arthritis in the big toe joint. One condition is bunions. Bunions occur when the bony prominence at the base of one’s big toe enlarges and protrudes outward, causing a bump shape at the side of one’s foot and irritation within your shoe.

Another cause could be gout, which is often characterized by sharp pain in joints like elbows or big toes due to uric acid crystals forming inside them; furthermore, if we neglect these symptoms for prolonged period time we may experience chronic disease leading to this kind of arthritis (osteoarthritis).

What is the difference between hallux valgus and hallux rigidus?

Hallux valgus isn’t a true bone disorder. It’s a condition that causes the toe, specifically the big toe, to angle towards the ground from one side. On other hand, hallux rigidus is a degenerative joint disorder of the big toe, characterized by pain and stiffness in cartilage or bony tissues in and around this joint.
The reason for these differences is because it takes time for a ligament to develop into a cartilage problem while it takes much less time for forces on an articulating surface to cause problems in cartilage or bones.

Is hallux rigidus reversible?

Hallux rigidus is a painful, progressive condition of the joint at the base of the big toe

If left untreated, hallux rigidi can be very difficult to reverse. A stepwise approach includes physical therapy and eventually surgery as a last resort. The goal is to protect adjacent joints by relieving pressure on them from bone spurs, but there may still be limited function in most cases.

Incision and removal of bone spurs- this procedure removes part of bone that has worn away or been destroyed due to trauma or disease. It also corrects any overlapping toes that have become overgrown because neighboring joints have been compromised during progression of disease.

What are the stages of hallux rigidus?

Hallux rigidus is a condition that develops as people age and the joint at the first toe becomes progressively stiff and painful.
Symptoms: first, pain and stiffness in first big toe that gets worse with walking; second, progressive loss of movement; third, fusion of first metatarsophalangeal joint (MPJ); fourth, fixed deformity characterized by arthritic changes like bone spurs.
As it progresses to the later stages of hallux rigidus foot pain can be unbearably intense as even weight distribution forces movements that result in pain. The earlier stages can usually be avoided by keeping feet properly aligned with good cushioning to absorb shock.

What is end stage hallux rigidus?

End stage hallux rigidus is when the joint moves less than 10 degrees. While this condition can lead to pain, any associated weight bearing activity should be found in measured amounts because all too soon, standing will also become very painful.

As end stage hallux rigidus progresses, your joint won’t move more than 10 degrees but continues to deteriorate regardless. All of which means that you need to restrict activities that bear weight or put weight on the joint even briefly – standing becomes difficult because it’s too much for your hip to take on while already struggling with equilibrium thanks to your fixed joint position.

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