How is hallux rigidus treated?

To relieve pain, your healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Appropriate shoes: Wear shoes that have plenty of room for your toes. You may find that shoes with stiff soles relieve pain. Avoid wearing high heels.
  • Limited toe movement: Place pads in your shoe to limit movement of your big toe. Avoid activities that stress your toe joint, such as jogging.
  • Pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can relieve pain and reduce swelling.
  • Foot soaks: Try a contrast bath, switching between hot and cold water to relieve inflammation. Place your foot in hot water for 30 seconds, then right away in cold water for 30 seconds.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections can help relieve pain.

Will I need surgery for hallux rigidus?

Sometimes, conservative measures aren’t enough. You may still have pain and stiffness. If the pain interferes with your life, surgery can help. Surgical procedures for hallux rigidus include:

  • Cheilectomy (kie-LEK-toe-me): Shaving the bone spur can help relieve pain and preserve joint motion. A cheilectomy allows more room for the toe to bend.
  • Osteotomy: Cutting the bone can realign or shorten the big toe.
  • Interpositional arthroplasty: Healthcare providers may recommend this joint resurfacing procedure for younger patients. Surgeons remove some of the damaged bone. They place a “spacer” of donor tissue between the joint ends to relieve pain.
  • Arthrodesis: For severe cases, this joint fusion procedure can provide long-lasting pain relief. Surgeons remove the damaged cartilage and join the two bones together. This surgery offers a permanent solution but may restrict big toe movement.

Are there complications with hallux rigidus surgery?

While complications are possible after any surgery, they rarely happen after hallux rigidus surgery. Complications can include:

  • Infection.
  • Joint stiffness.
  • Arthritis progression.
  • Deformity coming back (recurring).
  • Persistent swelling.

What should I expect during recovery from hallux rigidus surgery?

Your recovery depends on the procedure:

  • Cheilectomy and interpositional arthroplasty: You wear a special shoe for about two weeks before returning to regular footwear. Swelling may last for a few months.
  • Osteotomy: Swelling goes down in six to eight weeks. Complete healing can take up to three months.
  • Joint fusion: You wear a cast or boot for three to six weeks. Then you need crutches for two to six weeks. You may have some swelling and stiffness for a few months after the procedure.

When can I return to work after hallux rigidus surgery?

You can most likely return to work about four to eight weeks after surgery. The exact timing depends on your job, activity level and response to surgery.

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