Small, but often very painful. This is an accurate description of hammer toes, which are frequently the reason why people seek out a foot surgeon.
Like hallux valgus and bunions, the appearance of a hammer toe is very familiar: the middle joint (usually of the second toe) points upwards and stiffens in this position over time, while the end joint is overstretched. Pressure on the toes from shoes can cause corns to develop on the top of the toe, which increase the pain and may even lead to ulceration and infection. Pads and corn plasters do not help in this situation, because the additional material exerts even more pressure on the painful site.
The development of a hammer toe is often caused by the presence of a hallux valgus (bunion), which simultaneously pushes the toe up and back. The malalignment becomes fixed over time and leads to the symptoms mentioned above. By this stage, to correct the hammer toe, surgery is ultimately unavoidable.
There are various treatment options available nowadays. The malalignment, which may have been present for years, can cause the toe to stiffen in the wrong position, damaging the middle joint so much that it can no longer be saved. It can therefore be set in the correct position without any loss of function. If the ligament at the base of the toe is torn, preventing the toe from being overstretched upwards, this can be repaired. This often results in correction of the hammer toe.
These days the results of corrective procedures for hammer toes are very good. The times when surgery for hammer toes resulted in nothing but short stumps pointing in different directions are definitely over.
© By Dr Urs Graf