Hallux Limitus & Treatment

Published: 22nd February 2011
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Hallux refers to the big toe and Limitus refers to decreased motion of the joint. So, putting together, there is limited motion in the big toe joint. Despite its name it may not be the longest toe on the foot of some individuals.

In the early stages, motion of the big toe is only limited, and at this point, the disorder is called Hallux Limitus. As the problem advances, the big toe's motion gradually decreases until it becomes rigid or frozen. At this point, the disorder is referred to as Hallux Rigidus. As motion becomes progressively limited, pain increases, especially when the big toe is extended, or pushed up.

Symptoms ::

Symptoms of hallux limitus consist of pain and stiffness in the joint when walking, standing, and especially squatting. There may be an increase in pain in colder temperatures and damp weather. There is often swelling at the joint. Over time the jamming of bone up against one another can cause new bone formation that forms a bump on the top of your joint. This bump is called a bone spur. This will cause the joint to be more painful and it will eventually lose complete motion or become rigid.

Later findings that are consistent with hallux rigidus include continuous pain in the joint, even when at rest. A person with hallux rigidus may have a visual bump on the top of their foot over the joint. This bump is actually a bone growth known as an osteophyte that can be seen on x-ray, and is common in osteoarthritis. Another common complaint is difficulty wearing shoes, particularly shoes that are tight in the toes, such as high heels.

When the joint becomes too painful to walk on, a limp may be apparent. The attempt to keep weight off the joint can lead to problems with other areas of the foot that are not meant to bear the weight that the big toe is designed for. Knee, hip, back and neck pains are also common conditions associated with hallux limitus and hallux rigidus.


Hallux limitus and hallux rigidus can be treated by either conservative or aggressive treatments, or a combination of both. Conservative treatment relies on stabilizing the foot, taking weight off of the big toe, and alleviating some of the pain associated with the condition. Stabilization of the foot is often achieved with a custom orthotic or other form of padding. Symptoms may be alleviated with anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), icing, rest, and padding.

More aggressive treatment is focused on the surgical management of hallux limitus rigidus. The joint can commonly be fused, which takes away motion at the joint and alleviates the pain associated with the motion. Another option may be to use an implant, which can bring motion back to the joint. There are a number of different factors that go into the surgical decision making, so talk to your doctor about the options.

Stride Orthotics provide custom designed supports to joints of the lower limb, e.g. lower leg splints, knee braces, ankle supports, specialist made to measure footwear and foot orthotics(insoles). The Orthotic supports are designed to support joints and muscles of the lower back, hip, knee, ankle, lower leg and foot.

Peter Petrelli is a freelance author for http://www.strideorthotics.co.uk, a clinic that specializes in sport orthotics, Achilles tendonitis treatment, Ankle braces, Ankle sprains, Ankle supports, Biomechanics, Custom made insoles and Deep fitting shoes.

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