You probably don’t give this much thought, but your feet are intricately structured—each one contains 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 different muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When you have an issue like a bunion or hammertoe, however, you are more likely to be aware of the abnormal structuring. Beyond awareness, you are going to want treatment to address symptoms and problems that arise on account of the condition.
When you need expert care for a bunion or hammertoe, you should come in and see Dr. Timothy Dailey here at Freeland Foot & Ankle Clinic. Dr. Dailey will assess the nature and severity of the toe deformity and then create a customized treatment plan for you.
What Is the Difference Between a Bunion and a Hammertoe?
Both bunions and hammertoes can be considered toe “deformities” because their form is atypical from what you would normally expect to see. There are some similarities between the two conditions—especially the fact that in both instances, you have a toe that doesn’t look quite right—but they are distinctly different as well.
A bunion (hallux valgus) develops when the big toe begins to angle in an unnatural fashion at its metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP joint), which is where the toe connects to the foot. The MTP joint gets its name because the metatarsal bone in your foot—the long bone connecting the hind- and mid-foot—meets the proximal phalange bone in your toe—bone closest to the foot—at this point. In addition to the big toe angling inwards, there is also a bony bump on the inner edge of the foot.
A hammertoe is a condition wherein a toe—usually, but not always, the second or third toe—is curled in an unnatural fashion instead of being flat. The curl is formed by a stark downward bend at the second toe joint. That needs to be specified because there are two other related conditions: mallet and claw toe. With a mallet toe, there is only one abnormal bend (like a hammertoe). Instead of happening in the second joint, this is in the third joint (the one closest to the tip of the toe). If there are two abnormal downward bends—one each at the second and third joints—the condition is a claw toe. Usually, this is presented in all four of the smaller toes at the same time.
In addition to their unusual appearances, both conditions can cause pain, discomfort, difficulty wearing shoes, and an increased risk of callusing. Bunions can often be reddened and swollen as well.
Toe Deformity Treatment
Regardless of whether you have a bunion or hammertoe, it is best to identify the issue at the earliest opportunity. Both of these conditions are progressive, which means they will continue to worsen over time when left unaddressed. Conservative treatment at early stages can include footwear choices (wearing models that have low heels and wide, deep toe boxes), stretching and strengthening exercises, pain medication, night splints, and buddy taping.
In some cases, we may prescribe custom orthotics to re-balance pressure across your feet and address any existing gait problems that contribute to the bunion or hammertoe.
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When using conservative care, the goals are to stop the toe deformity from becoming worse and relieve any pain and discomfort you are experiencing. Since these conditions are irreversible, it is not possible to actually correct them without the use of surgical intervention. If your condition causes severe pain and difficulty, we may recommend surgery to correct the affected toe(s). The good news is that advances in surgical techniques and procedures have made these surgeries less invasive and quicker to recover from than they had been in the past.
Professional Care for Bunions and Hammertoes
If you have developed either of these conditions, contact Dr. Dailey at Freeland Foot & Ankle Clinic for an evaluation of your toe deformity. He will determine why your toe has moved out of position and which type of treatment will be best for you. Give us a call at (989) 695-6788 or contact us online to schedule your appointment today.