We have always heard prevention is better than cure, but for prevention, we should first know the cause. This article will give you an insight on how to prevent hammer toe.
Hammer Toe is an orthopaedic deformity that occurs when there is nonuniformity between the toe muscle and the toe joint. This imbalance results in the bending of the toe, which resembles a hammer, hence is called a hammer toe.
The second, third, fourth, and fifth toes have three joints each. Generally, in hammer toe the second toe, third or fourth toe is affected. Hammer toe occurs because of bending at the middle joint i.e. the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint. The toe is bent upward.
1. Causes of Hammer Toe
The muscles work in pairs to bend the toe or straighten it. When the imbalance is caused, a lot of pressure gets on toe tendons and joints because of the tension between the muscles pulling in opposite directions. This causes the bending of the toe, resulting in a hammer toe, if the toe remains in the same position for long; the muscles tighten and don’t stretch.
There are a lot of things to look up for the cause of hammer toe, which include:-
1.1. Ill-fitting Shoes
One of the most common and major causes of hammer toe is wearing a shoe that does not fit you or is uncomfortable.
If the shoes that you are wearing put your natural forefoot structure out of proportion, then beware of the shoe in your feet. These shoes are giving you foot pain.
Ladies! Be extremely careful. Those high heels that you love, the elevated block shoes, and the pointy and narrow shoes and stilettos, are the reason that you have or might get hammer toes.
To generalize, extremely tight, pointy, and short shoes, shoes not your size would put pressure on the toe muscle to give you a hammer toe.
Yes, that’s right. There is a category of diabetic hammer toes. Almost 50% of people with diabetes have neuropathy and while it can develop anywhere it generally happens in feet.
Diabetic hammer toe occurs when the muscles contract and create a disparity between other foot muscles; it generally causes bumps because the toe muscle can’t straighten. This bump when rubbed with socks and shoes causes swelling and painful sores.
1.3. Neuromuscular Conditions
Several neuromuscular conditions like Charcot-marie-tooth disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, and Polio, give rise to hammer toes. Sometimes it could also be due to spinal cord injury. Bunions also cause Hammer Toes.
Other causes include alcoholism, stroke, high arches, feet that turn inward while walking, tightened ligaments or tendons of the foot
If we carefully look at the causes and reflect on them, then we can know early about hammer toes and how to prevent hammer toes.
2. High Risk of Hammer Toe is in:-
- People who have flat feet
- People who have long toes
- Age, gender, and inherited gene
3. Symptoms of Hammer Toe
If you have experienced anything mentioned above that can cause hammer toe, then you should look out for the symptoms. Redness, swelling, blisters, pain while walking, joint pain in digits when they rub, stiffness in bent toes over a long period.
Diagnosis is mostly by a physical examination done by the doctor or by an x-ray.
When we see the causes and understand them, prevention becomes very easy.
Now we come to the part for which it all started: prevention.
4. How to Prevent Hammer Toe
As you read till now, the main causes of hammer toe lie in our daily life choices, if you change them, you can prevent hammer toe. If your hammer toe is still in the early stage then typical nonsurgical methods can be used.
4.1. Use Comfortable Shoes
Using shoes that are roomier and have enough space for all your toes so they don’t take up each other’s space can prevent hammer toes. If you have wide claws don’t use pointy shoes, wear shoes that have at least half an inch of room.
Well-fitting shoes that have cushions help with softening the arch of the foot.
Wearing shoes that have toe boxes would also help with hammer toes. If you find shoes with a toe box still hurting; then you could ask your local shoe repair shop to stretch it so that it fits your toes.
Wearing shoes with soft insoles and padding helps to decrease the pain. Avoid using high-heeled shoes.
4.2. Special Exercises
Certain special exercises can help you with the question of how to prevent hammer toes. Some will include toe crunch, taps, manual stretching, floor grips, etc.
Special tip: Doing ‘towel curls’ can help your hammer toe. Put a towel on the ground and keep your foot on it, curl your toe keeping the rest of the feet on the ground.
If you try these or have already tried but to no avail you should probably consult an orthopaedic doctor or a podiatrist or talk to your family physicians. Most probably your hammer toes have severed and become chronic.
Considering the severity of your deformity, your doctor could ask you to take physiotherapy treatment or undergo surgery.
Is Surgery a Necessity or an Option? When and What are the Options?
Listening to your doctor would help. But if the toe has become very rigid or is no longer movable, then you might need surgery to relieve pain and also to walk properly.
Generally, these surgeries are outpatient and under local anaesthesia, but they will vary according to the patient’s condition.
5.1 Various surgery options include:
a.) Tendon lengthening
b.) Tendon transfer
c.) Joint fusion (Arthrodesis)
e.) Weil osteotomy
These hammer toe surgeries do not hamper your daily activities. Although it may take up to six weeks for complete healing of the toe, the swelling of the toe goes.
If you have a hammer toe surgery, restrict your movement and avoid putting pressure on the toes.
From this article, we can infer, that if you wear heels shoes, and wear proper size, you can easily prevent hammer toes. But by no means completely stop using high heels, wear them once in a while or for important events, and immediately change after. Don’t let them give you hammer toes.
Thank you for reading the article. Do leave us a comment below if you found some useful information on how to prevent hammer toe through this article.
Shreya is currently a dental student who has an avid passion for creativity and writing. She has been a knowledge enthusiast since forever, and believes in propagating the knowledge gained for betterment of society. Her niche lies in research and creative writing. She has acquired good command over languages that she has learned and, thus communicates and engages with her audience efficiently. She hopes that in future, people will become more conscious about their oral heath. She wants to impart understanding of Oral health to people of all socio-economic groups through her writing.