Stiff big toe (Hallux limitus)

The most common cause of hallux limitus (so called because hallux is the medical term for the big toe, and movement is limited), is an abnormal alignment of the long bone behind the big toe joint (the first metatarsal bone).

When this occurs, the big toe joint can’t move smoothly, resulting in a variety of possible symptoms. One common problem is pain at the bottom of the big toe, where a callous can form because the big toe does not bend upward enough. In people with diabetes, the pressure can cause an ulcer which can become infected.

Another consequence of a stiff big toe joint is the formation of bone spurs on the top of the joint. This can become painful as a result of shoe pressure. As the joint degenerates, more bone spurring can occur, and if left untreated the condition can result in complete destruction of the joint.

Oral medications and cortisone injections can be useful in treating pain, but they don’t address the underlying cause of the condition. Functional orthotics, on the other hand, are designed to do just that. Orthotics will not reverse whatever damage may have already occurred, but can slow or halt degeneration of the joint.

If the condition progresses to the point of spurring around the joint, surgery may be required.