A deformed toe that is bent in the middle and resembling a hammer is known as “hammertoe”. This condition, which causes toes to become permanently bent, occurs in the second, third, fourth, or fifth toes of the foot.
The causes of hammertoes vary. One of the most common causes of hammertoe deformities is muscle imbalance. This muscle imbalance leads to overpowering of one muscle over another therefore leading to bending of the toe.
Other causes of hammertoes include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Shoes that are too narrow in the toe area, such as high heels or pointed shoes, can force your toes to stay in a bent position and this can promote the deformity. Frequently wearing shoes like this leads to pain associated with hammertoes.
Home treatments for hammertoes include shoes with plenty room in the toe box. Additional conservative treatments include custom foot orthotics to help control the muscle imbalance. Silipos sleeves can be placed over the toes to help prevent rubbing of the joints in the shoes therefore reducing pain.
When hammertoes continue to hurt despite conservative care, then surgical intervention is pursued. Surgical options generally are broken down to either an arthroplasty procedure (joint resection) versus an arthrodesis (fusion of the joint).
If you have a “flexible hammertoe” (a toe that is not stiff), your surgeon will likely recommend an arthroplasty procedure. On the other hand, if you have a “fixed hammertoe”, (a stiff toe), your surgeon will likely recommend a fusion procedure.
Hammertoe surgery is usually an outpatient procedure. During this procedure, the surgeon will straighten the toe by cutting ligaments and tendons to release the bend of the toe. Next, the ends of the bone are cut.
Pins can be used when performing both arthroplasty procedures and fusions and the type of fixation used is determined based on the severity of the deformity and surgeon preference. The pins are removed a few weeks after surgery. Keep in mind that if pins are used then your foot cannot be submerged in water until after the pins are removed.
Recovery from hammertoe surgery generally takes about 6-8 weeks. Your surgeon will most likely recommend that you keep your foot elevated above your heart level as much as possible as swelling is very common with any foot surgery. Swelling is usually the limiting factor when returning to closed toe shoes.
You will have to wear a special shoe or boot after surgery to help you walk, and if other procedures are performed at the same time then crutches may be necessary as well. If surgery is for your right foot, you will not be able to drive until your foot has recovered.
Your surgeon may give you exercises to do while you recover. Swelling may occur after surgery and in some cases can take up to a year to completely go away.
Hammertoe surgery costs will depend upon your health insurance policy. Your health insurance may cover the entire surgery, or only a portion of the cost. Your insurance carrier and the type of plan you have will determine what is covered. At the Timonium Foot and Ankle Center, we would be more than happy to check your benefits for you to let you know the entire cost up front.
What To Do Now
Do you have a hammertoe or are considering hammertoe surgery?
Dr. Jordan Stewart of the Timonium Foot and Ankle Center is one of the top foot and ankle surgeons in the Mid-Atlantic region. He is certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery.
Dr. Stewart has been praised by many of his patients as being caring, understanding, thorough, and being able to help them when other doctors could not.
To see a video on hammertoes with Dr. Stewart click here.
If you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Stewart, give our office a call at 410-560-2777 or fill out the brief form above on the right hand side of this page.