Hammertoe occurs when a toe (typically one or more of the middle three) deforms into an inverted "V" faintly resembling the shape of a hammer. The condition affects up to 20 percent of people in America (mostly women) and typically results in chronic pain and reduced mobility if left untreated. While surgery can correct the deformities, it's not without its risks. Before you go under the knife, here are a few non-surgical things you can do to treat hammertoes.
Types of Hammertoe
There are two types of hammertoe:
- Flexible hammertoe - This is the beginning stage of the condition and characterized by the fact that the toes can still be moved at the affected joint.
- Rigid hammertoe - This usually develops in the later stages of the condition and is characterized by toes that cannot be moved at all.
Your ability to correct hammertoes without surgery depends on the type you have. Flexible hammertoe can typically be fixed using non-surgical methods, but rigid hammertoe cannot. This is why it's important to get diagnosed as soon as possible so you can maximize your chances of recovery.
Depending on the underlying cause of hammertoe, the condition is generally irreversible. However, you can significantly slow down or halt the progression of the disease by taking action right away. Here are a few ways you can treat hammertoe without surgery.
Change Your Footwear
One of the most common causes of hammertoe is improper footwear. Wearing shoes that are too small, provide little support to the feet, or are shaped in a way that squeezes the toes into unnatural positions contribute to the development of this foot condition. Therefore, the first thing you should do is change your footwear.
The shoes you wear should provide plenty of room in the toe box for toes to sit comfortably side by side. It's best to shop for shoes later in the afternoon or evening since feet tend to swell during the day. Feet are also uneven, so you should buy shoes based on the bigger foot.
High heels can put your toes under enormous amounts of pressure because of the way they shift your weight. It's probably best to wear flats instead. If you must wear heels, go for the low end of the scale and save the high heels for special occasions.
Toe Binding and Padding
In addition to changing your footwear, you may be able to retrain your toes by binding and padding them. This involves placing a little bit of padding on top of the affected toe and then using tape or gauze to firmly bind it to the adjacent toe. This can help alleviate pain you may be experiencing from the condition as well as recondition the toe to change positions. While you can do this at home, it's best to have a podiatrist do this for you. You may inadvertently cause more problems by wrapping the toe incorrectly.
An alternative to toe binding and padding is to use toe straightening products. These are specially designed soles with elastic loops that you fit over the affected toe. They work similar to toe binding in that they help gently straighten crooked toes. They can be used with most shoes and are found at many retail stores.
Daily stretching and moving exercises can help keep the joints and muscles in the toes flexible, which can prevent the condition from worsening and increase the efficacy of your toe straightening efforts. Gently stretching your toes using your hands or gripping and releasing an object using your toes are two exercises that can strengthen and stretch the muscles. A podiatrist or physical therapist can suggest others that may be beneficial.
With persistent effort, you can minimize the impact hammertoes have on your health and quality of life. For more tips on things you can do to correct this condition without surgery, contact a knowledgeable and experienced podiatrist in person or via their website, such as http://www.westmorelandfootdoctor.com.