Hallux Limitus and Hallux Rigidus are types of foot arthritis that affects the big toe joint. Typically, this condition first occurs between 30 and 60 years of age.

In the case of hallux limitus, you may experience a limited ability to move your big toe upward or downward. If the condition progresses to hallux rigidus, you may lose the ability to move your big toe and it can become painful.

Symptoms of Hallux Limitus/Rigidus

You may notice the following symptoms of hallux limitus/rigidus, which can intensify over time:

  • Pain in the big toe when performing physical activity or walking
  • Swelling of the big toe joint
  • Stiffness in the big toe joint
  • Bump, or bone spur, developing on top of the big toe

Causes of Hallux Limitus/Rigidus

Hallux limitus or hallux rigidus may occur as a result of damage to the bone surface that leads to wear in the joint. There are several risk factors that may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Longer than normal metatarsal, the bone along the inner side of the foot
  • Metatarsal that is elevated
  • Previous injury of the big toe
  • Family history of hallux limitus/rigidus

What to Expect at Your Appointment

At your appointment, your doctor will examine your big toe joint and check the range of motion that you have in your big toe without pain. He or she may also analyze your gait to determine how much the condition affects your walking -- a shift in gait may lead to other problems, so it’s an important factor to consider as you work together to choose your treatment plan. Your doctor may also order an X-ray or MRI to visualize the extent of the damage to the toe joint and how the bone spur has formed.

Non-surgical Treatments for Hallux Limitus/Rigidus

Your podiatric surgeon will determine which treatment options are best for you depending on your age, the severity of symptoms, conclusions drawn from an X-ray exam, and other factors.  

For mild to moderate hallux limitus, your doctor may recommend non-invasive treatment options such as:

  • Ice or heat packs to alleviate pain
  • Oral anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and stiffness
  • Changing the kinds of shoes you wear
  • Orthotics, or custom inserts used in your shoes

Surgical Treatment for Condition and Post-treatment

In more severe cases, and where your condition has progressed to hallux rigidus, your podiatric surgeonmay recommend surgery. Surgical procedures that are most commonly used include:

  • Cheilectomy, or shaving the bone spur that has formed on top of the joint.
  • Arthrodesis, or bone fusion, which involves removing the ends of the bones that form the joint and fusing them together. After this operation, pain is eliminated, but you lose motion in the joint.
  • Osteotomy, where some of the bone around the joint is shifted to increase joint space and motion.

Recovery time after hallux rigidus surgery depends on the surgical procedure.. Your doctor may give you a special shoe or boot to wear to protect your toe as well as require that you rest your foot during this time. Be sure to assess recovery times when you work with your doctor to choose the best treatment for you.

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Location Information

Podiatry/ Surgical Clinic: 
106 Irving St. NW G253,
Washington, D.C., 20010
Phone: 202-877-6640
Fax: 202-877- 8010
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