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What is Hallux Limitus? (Big toe pain)

Updated: May 27, 2023

In this section Cypress Foot and Ankle expert Dr. Christopher Correa discusses Hallux Limitus. The big toe serves a pivotal (yup I went there) role in walking acting at the fulcrum from where your foot pushes off propelling you forward to meet all of your dreams. When jamming and pain occurs at the base of the big toe it could be from a condition known as hallux limitus.


Hallux limitus is a condition that affects the big toe joint, causing pain and limited mobility. It is often caused by degenerative changes in the joint, such as arthritis, or by the development of bony growths called osteophytes. These changes develop gradually over time and are a direct result of a poorly aligned big toe joint or poor foot posture. In some cases, it may also be the result of injury or repetitive stress to the joint.


Symptoms of hallux limitus include pain and stiffness in the big toe joint, particularly when walking or wearing shoes. The affected joint may also become swollen and tender, and it may be difficult to bend or straighten the toe. Over time, the condition may lead to the development of a bony bump on the top of the foot, and the toe may gradually lose its range of motion. This bump may become so large that it abuts the inside of the shoe causing pain or irritation.


Treatment for hallux limitus typically involves a combination of conservative measures, such as rest, ice, pain medication, physical therapy, immobilization, custom orthotics, pain laser therapy, and steroid injections to improve joint mobility. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct the problem. Surgical options for hallux limitus are typically considered when conservative treatments, are not effective in relieving symptoms. Some of the most common surgical procedures for hallux limitus include.


  • Arthrodesis: This procedure involves fusing the bones in the big toe joint to eliminate pain and improve stability. This procedure is typically recommended for individuals with advanced stage hallux limitus.

  • Osteotomy: This procedure involves cutting and realigning the bones in the big toe joint to relieve pressure on the affected area and improve joint mobility.

  • Joint implant surgery: This procedure involves replacing the damaged joint with an artificial joint, which can help to reduce pain and improve joint function.

  • Joint debridement: This procedure involves removing damaged or diseased tissue from the joint to relieve pain and improve mobility.


It is also important to keep in mind that surgical treatments for hallux limitus can be associated with some risks and potential complications, including infection, blood clots, and nerve damage. Before undergoing any surgical procedure, if you think you may have hallux limitus, it is important to see a podiatrist for a proper diagnosis and to discuss your treatment options. With the right care, you can reduce your pain and improve the function of your big toe joint. Joint pain is never normal. If you are concerned about joint pain, give the experts at Select Foot and Ankle Specialists a call and take the first step toward recovery today!


Big toe pain and big toe arthritis

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