Hammer toe

What is hammertoe?

Hammertoe, sometimes referred to as claw toe or mallet toe, is a deformity that occurs due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons and/or ligaments that help keep the toes straight.

Hammertoe usually occurs in the second toe, which is bent downward.

Prognosis of hammertoe

Generally, the evolution of this problem is favorable, and in rare cases it is necessary to perform surgery. In fact, surgery is only performed in very severe cases, and will only be necessary if the pain is uncontrollable, if it prevents you from leading a normal life, or if you cannot move your toe.

Normally, if the condition is detected and treated early, surgery is not required.

Symptoms of hammertoe

Hammertoe has a bizarre twisting of one or more toe joints. Usually, the affected toe will be the second toe, although at other times other toes may be affected, with the exception of the thumb.

The main symptom will be pain when trying to move the toe, which can be quite difficult.

It is common for a sort of callus to form over the top of the toe and on the sole of the foot.

Medical tests for hammertoe

Detection and/or diagnosis of hammertoe will be made simply by visual examination and physical examination, noting whether there is a twisting of the toe, difficulty in moving the toe, or pain.

What are the causes of hammertoe?

There are several reasons that have been associated with the appearance of hammertoe, although the most common is to wear narrow and short shoes that can squeeze the wearer, being more common in children who use shoes that fit too small and in women whose shoes do not fit properly or use high heels. Another cause may be trauma, or a fracture.

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It is also possible that there is a strange or abnormal balance in the muscles of the toes. This imbalance can cause the toe to contract. Rarely, if ever, it is all of the toes that are affected, in which case the reason for hammertoe is a spinal or nerve problem.

Can hammertoe be prevented?

The simplest way to prevent hammertoe is to wear appropriate footwear according to the size of each person’s foot. Thus, regularly checking the size of children’s shoes can prevent this problem from developing.

Avoiding the use of high heels can be helpful in preventing the toes from twisting, and even using shoes with laces, straps or Velcro can be more comfortable, as they are wider and adapt more easily to the different sizes of each foot.

Treatments for hammertoe

If it is a mild case and detected early, it is possible to treat hammertoe by using a splint on the affected toe. Other recommendations may be to wear a different type of shoe, which is wider and more comfortable. The use of insoles or pads can be helpful, repositioning the toe and improving pressure and pain.

A series of toe exercises can also be performed to strengthen the muscles of the foot.

In the event that conservative treatments are unsuccessful, it is possible to perform surgery to release the tendon or even remove a piece of bone, although this is only rarely performed in severe cases in which the toe does not improve. This is called percutaneous foot surgery, an innovative technique that hardly harms the adjacent tissues.

The intervention is a priori simple, and the patient should sleep at home the same day of the surgery.

What specialist treats hammertoe?

The specialist in charge of treating and diagnosing hammertoes is the orthopedic surgeon or orthopedic surgeon and the specialist in podiatry.