Hallux Rigidus

Hallux Rigidus

What is hallux rigidus?

Hallux rigidus is arthritis of the main joint of the big toe in the ball of the foot. It is a wearing out of the joint surfaces. It is called “hallux rigidus” because its main feature is stiffness (“rigidus”) of the big toe (“hallux”).

What problems does it cause?

The ability to turn the big toe upwards is lost, although it can usually be turned downwards. Sometimes it gets so stiff it points downwards and cannot be laid flat on the floor.

A bony bump (“osteophyte” or “dorsal bunion”) may develop on top of the joint. This is your body’s natural response to the worn joint. The bump may rub on the shoes.

Because of the painful big toe some people tend to walk on the side of the foot. This may produce pain in the ball of the foot or down its outside border.

 What causes it?

In most people there is no definite cause. Probably the main reason why this joint is particularly subject to wearing out is that it is under tremendous stress in walking. With each step, a force equal to twice your body weight passes through this very small joint.
In a few people it may be caused by an injury or another medical problem such as gout or an infection in the joint. There are a lot of theories about why the joint becomes arthritic but as yet none of them seem very helpful in treatment or prevention of the condition.