A hammer toe is the common term for a foot disorder where the end of the toe is bent downward. Usually occurring on the second toe, it may affect other toes as well, moving them into a downward position.
hammer toe is most commonly caused by wearing footwear that are too narrow and too tight. This can cause the toe into an awkward, bent position. Over time, the muscles and tendons in the second toe will shorten, leading to a permanent deformity. The most common populations that have hammer toe are women who commonly wear small shoes or high heels and children who wear shoes that do not fit. In some instances, hammer toe may be present at birth as a congenital defect, but it usually occurs over time.
While treating adults for hammer toe is more difficult, children are a much easier population. Usually doctors will manipulate and splint the affected toe. Making several lifestyle changes will also relieve symptoms and pain. Wearing the right size of shoe is important both to prevent the worsening of the condition as well as relieving pain. Avoiding high heels is important and also wearing soft insoles that help to relieve the pressure on the toe. If the joint is sticking out, protecting it with corn pads will help to minimize pain and discomfort.
Seeing a foot doctor is the best option. They can administer regulators or straighteners for patients which help to reverse or relieve the pressure. The earlier a hammer toe is recognized, the easier it is to treat, so seeing a doctor promptly is important.
Another treatment method is trying several exercises which will help to stretch out the muscles and tendons in the second toe. Place a towel on the ground and try to pick it up with the toes. Doing this activity several times a day will work out the tension in the muscle.
In some severe cases, doctors will recommend surgery to straighten the joint. The surgery is fairly simple, although patients will lose mobility for several weeks after the procedure. In the surgery, a doctor will cut and move tendons and ligaments. In some cases, the bones on the side of the joint will need to be fused together. Although surgery is an option, it is only recommended for severe cases.
Hammer toe is easier to prevent than to treat. Women should avoid choosing shoes that are too small for their feet. Also, avoiding high heels and wearing uncomfortable shoes sparingly will prevent the disorder. For children and adolescents, they should be careful during periods of growth such as puberty. It may be necessary to buy several pairs of shoes during a year to get a proper fit, but taking this step will do a great deal to prevent hammer toe from developing.
Hamnmer toe is a painful disorder although it is not dangerous. Treating it is possible through exercises that stretch the muscles in the toe. For anyone who has a hammer toe, seeing a doctor is the best course of action.