Hallux Rigidus

Virginia Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates

Foot & Ankle Surgeons located in Charlottesville, VA & Culpeper, VA

When arthritis strikes your feet, the joint at the base of your big toe is usually one of the first to succumb, which can lead to hallux rigidus. If your big toe is becoming increasingly difficult to move, a trip to see one of the podiatrists at Virginia Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates is a good first step. Both Joseph R. Disabato, DPM, and Melissa L. Gulosh, DPM, have the experience necessary to restore pain-free movement in their Charlottesville and Culpeper, Virginia, patients. To get started, call or fill out the online form.

Hallux Rigidus Q & A

What is hallux rigidus?

Hallux rigidus is essentially a fancy word for a stiff big toe (hallux refers to the big toe, and rigidus means stiffness). At the base of your all-important big toe is your metatarsophalangeal joint, which allows your big toe to move up and down, and it’s critical for propelling you forward. If this joint stiffens, it can have a serious impact on your ability to walk or climb stairs.


What causes hallux rigidus?

Hallux rigidus is usually caused by osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative condition that progressively breaks down your joints. Your joints rely on a substance called cartilage, which covers the ends of your bones to facilitate easy gliding within the joint. With osteoarthritis, this cartilage begins to break down, leaving your bones unprotected and able to rub together painfully.

This, in turn, leads to inflammation within the joint, further hampering your mobility and causing pain. Another byproduct of this form of arthritis is the development of bone spurs. In the case of hallux rigidus, a bone spur can develop on the top of your joint, limiting the ability of your big toe to bend.

Hallux rigidus can also come on as a result of an injury to your big toe or because of abnormal mechanics within your foot. As an example, if you have fallen arches or your ankles roll inward when you walk, you’re more prone to developing hallux rigidus.

No matter how your hallux rigidus develops, the main takeaway is that the condition won’t get better on its own and, more often than not, it worsens until your mobility is compromised.


How is hallux rigidus remedied?

When you first see your doctor at Virginia Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates, expect to have a thorough examination, which includes advanced imaging to allow a closer look at what’s going on inside your joint. If they confirm the presence of arthritis and/or a bone spur, the next step is to restore your comfort and mobility.

To do this, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Custom orthotics
  • Corticosteroids

If these conservative treatments aren’t successful, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove the bone spurs or to fuse the joint together.

To regain pain-free movement, call Virginia Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates or request an appointment using the online scheduler.