Dr. Sanaz Lalehparvar, Foot & Ankle Surgeon at Gotham Footcare
Some people can manage symptoms from hammer toes with lifestyle changes. If lifestyle changes don't help reduce your pain, surgery may be a solution to this foot condition. Read on for the most popular questions about hammer toes, treatment, surgery, and recovery.
Hammer toe deformities develop when the toes contract abnormally due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the foot. Genetics, trauma, age, arthritis, certain diseases, and improper ill-fitting shoe gear for prolonged periods can contribute to the development of hammer toes. Hammer toes most commonly occur in the second, third, and fifth digits.
Treatment of hammer toes depends on the severity of the deformity. Mild cases can be addressed with shoe modifications, prefabricated pads, toe straighteners, custom-made orthotics, and routine debridement of associated corns and calluses. However, advanced hammer toe deformities unrelieved with conservative care must be corrected with surgical intervention.
The small toes have two joints. The proximal joint, which is closer to the foot, and the distal joint, which is closer to the tip of the toe. A hammer toe forms when a toe is bent down or contracted at the proximal joint and typically presents with a painful corn on top of the joint.
If a toe is contracted at the proximal toe joint, it is called a hammer toe. If the toe is bent both at the proximal and distal toe joints, it is called a claw toe. Claw toes present with corns on the top of both joints. A mallet toe occurs when the proximal joint is straight, and the distal toe joint is contracted.
Hammer toes will not resolve with time or on their own. However, you can delay the progression of hammer toe deformities with conservative treatments, including shoes with a wide and extra-depth toe box, digital retaining toe crests, sling-down splints, pads, strappings, custom molded orthotics, and periodic debridement of existing calluses.
Hammer toe deformities can cause pain when walking and wearing shoes, particularly when frictional forces form painful corns and calluses. Hammer toes may also cause emotional distress due to the unsightly appearance of the toes.
Podiatrists are specialized Foot and Ankle surgeons who provide both conservative non-surgical and surgical treatments for hammer toe deformities.
Over-the-counter and online toe corrective splints and straighteners only temporarily relieve pain. In addition, advanced deformities will not resolve with conservative treatments and often require surgical correction.
It's time for hammer toe and corn removal surgery when conservative treatment fails to alleviate pain and suffering when walking or wearing shoes. Some people with hammer toe deformities also have other foot conditions, such as bunions, long metatarsals, and flat feet that may exacerbate hammer toe deformities. If you suffer from multiple foot ailments, your doctor may recommend treating all conditions for optimal results following hammer toe surgery. You should avoid surgery if you suffer from poor circulation in your feet, have an active infection, or have other health problems that could complicate or delay healing.
Hammer toe surgery is normally done on an outpatient basis so that you can return home the same day of your surgery. The surgery aims to reposition the toe by removing the deformed, injured bone and then realign the tendons and the joints. The procedure selection depends on the severity of each toe. If the toe joint is flexible, the surgeon might only transfer the tendons to strengthen the toe or resect the joint. If the hammer toe is rigid, then the joint must be fused. Fusion is achieved by inserting either absorbable implants or titanium wires or screws that may be permanent or removable, depending on the stage of the deformity.
Most insurance companies cover hammer toe surgery. Our surgical coordinator can run your benefits to confirm your plan's coverage before scheduling.
Pain medications, icing, elevation, and limitation of standing and activity postoperatively, will keep pain levels to a bare minimum and help provide comfort throughout your recovery.
Recovery from surgery typically takes four to eight weeks, depending on the surgical procedures. During this time, you will be weight-bearing in a stiff-soled surgical shoe. Your stitches will be removed 2 to 3 weeks postoperatively. Most people transition to sneakers or comfortable shoes after the first month. Swelling of the toes may take up to a year to resolve after toe corrective procedures.
Driving is safe only when your doctor clears you to transition from a surgical shoe to sneakers or normal shoes after each foot surgery.
At Gotham Footcare in NYC, we strive at recognizing your individual needs and desired outcomes while formulating an effective and personalized treatment plan with the highest quality care available.
What sets Gotham Footcare apart from other podiatry offices is our dedication to providing you with the education you need to make well-informed decisions regarding your care. Regardless of what your foot and ankle trouble may be, at Gotham Footcare our team will work tirelessly to help you feel better. At Gotham Footcare, we help you put your best foot forward.
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