Hallux Rigidus (Stiff Big Toe)
Hallux rigidus is defined by the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society as a disorder or arthritis of the joint located at the base of the big toe. It causes pain and stiffness in the joint, and over time, could likely result in difficulty bending the toe. It’s a common arthritic condition of the foot that affects 1 in 40 people over the age of 50.
The most common site of arthritis in the foot is at the base of the big toe. This joint is called the metatarsophalangeal, or MTP joint. This joint is vital to the the natural and healthy movement of your foot because it has to bend every time you take a step. If the joint starts to stiffen, walking can become painful and difficult.
In the MTP joint, as in any joint, the ends of the bones are covered by a smooth articular cartilage, which is white tissue that covers the ends of bones where they come together to form joints. If wear-and-tear or injury damage the articular cartilage, the raw bone ends can rub together. A bone spur, or overgrowth, may develop on the top of the bone. This overgrowth can prevent the toe from bending as much as it needs to when you walk. The result is a stiff big toe, or hallux rigidus.
Hallux rigidus customarily develops in adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years. Although it not certain It may result from an injury to the toe that damages the articular cartilage or from differences in foot anatomy that increase stress on the joint.
Symptoms of hallux rigidus
Pain in the joint when you are active, especially as you push-off on the toes when you walk
Swelling around the joint
A bump, like a bunion or callus, that develops on the top of the foot
Stiffness in the great toe and an inability to bend it up or down