Realignment of crooked toes and toe deformities
A hammertoe usually refers to any deformity of the toe. Technically speaking there are a large number of digital deformities with individual names, however in general, people tend to refer to all of them as hammertoes. These deformities occur when the toe buckles at one or more of the lesser toe joints. As a result of the toe no longer sitting in a neutral plane area of overload result- often on the toe knuckle joints or at the apex or tip of the toe. This often results in painful and unsightly calluses or corns in these areas of high pressure.
The toe will have moved out of alignment and buckled in any of the three planes of movement, and often in a combination of at least two. The planes are up and down, left to right and rotation. So the toe looks deformed, the joints become more prominent and buckled and a callus or corn (dead hard skin) can grow at the apex of the deformity. Corns and calluses can become not only very disfiguring but also very painful.
Generally, hammertoes are caused by an imbalance in the little muscles within the foot. Toes can be congenitally long or short which can cause buckling or retraction. Footwear is not usually the sole cause of toe deformities, but certainly can contribute to malalignment if they are constricting, tight, short, have too shallow a toe box, are too high or are too narrow. As with pretty much every medical condition there is often a strong genetic component too.
Hammertoes can be treated conservatively (non-surgically) or surgically. Non-surgical treatments include padding, strapping and accommodating in footwear; some ortho digital devices can be beneficial in helping to balance out the mechanics. If conservative treatment isn’t appropriate or ineffective, surgery can be very successful in straightening the toe, along with rebalancing or removing the deforming force(s). Surgery usually involves removing part of the involved knuckle joint(s) and derotating in one or all three planes of movement, lengthening or repositioning the toe tendons and skin-plasty as required. There is no one standard surgical procedure as toes become deformed in several ways, so it is a matter of tailoring the procedure for each patient. Sometimes internal pins are required and these usually stay in permanently, other options include temporary fixation with an external wire or splinting for 3-6 weeks after the procedure.
The procedure is performed as day surgery under general anaesthetic, sedation or local anaesthesia depending on the extent of the surgery and patient preference. Multiple toes can be operated on at any one time. Depending on the extent of the surgery you will need to rest and elevate your foot post- operatively. You will be able to bear weight in a limited capacity initially, and by 2-6 weeks you will be able to start increasing your activity to tolerance. Once the toe has healed completely there should be no limitations on your daily or recreational activities. In fact, because the pain and deformity have gone these activities will become much easier.
Disclaimer: Individual results may vary. Surgery and all health regulated services may carry some risks which you can discuss with our doctor.
Most concerns have more than one course of treatment. Feel free to contact us so one of our team can discuss options for your unique concern.