Hallux Rigidus

What is Hallux Rigidus?
Hallux rigidus is a condition in which the big toe (or hallux) has limited movement to varying degrees. This disorder can be anything from a small inconvenience majorly disabling, as we use our big toe for more things than most people realize. Walking, bending, climbing and even standing all require the use of the big toe. If you experience pain and/or stiffness in your big toe, there's a chance you may have hallux rigidus.
Hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis, and is progressive, meaning it will never get better, decreasing the big toe's motion as time goes on. In it's earlier stage, it is referred to as "hallux limitus, " limited movement in the big toe. As the condition progresses to the "rigidus" stage, movement is practically nonexistent, becoming a "stiff" or "frozen" joint. Other problems are likely to occur in both early and late stages of the condition, including:

  1. Early signs and symptoms
    • Pain and stiffness in the big toe while in use
    • Pain and stiffness made worse by cold/damp weather
    • Difficulty with certain activities (running, squatting, etc)
    • Swelling and inflammation around the joint
  2. Symptoms as the disorder progress
    • Pain while resting
    • Difficulty wearing shoes due to the development of bone spurs
    • Dull pain in the hip, knee, or lower back caused from changes in the way you walk
    • Limping

Causes of Hallux Rigidus
Structural abnormalities in the foot and faulty function can lead to osteoarthritis of the big toe joint. This "wear and tear" arthritis is caused by defects that change the way a patient's foot and big toe joint functions. For example, if you have fallen arches or are constantly rolling your ankle, you are more likely to develop hallux rigidus. It can also be the result of genetics, or overuse, like that which people who often stoop or squat while working might experience. 

If you notice that your big toe is having a harder time moving than it was before, or are experiencing the symptoms listed above, you should schedule an appointment to see your podiatrist as soon as possible, as early detection leads to easier treatment. 
During the exam, your doctor will evaluate your foot and move the toe to determine its range of motion. You should expect to have x-rays performed to determine the amount of arthritis present, as well as check for and evaluate any bone spurs or abnormalities that may have developed due to the condition.