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There are 26 bones in the human foot, which makes this one of the most complicated structures in the skeletal system. Furthermore, the foot includes two sesamoid bones, which is a peculiar type of bone only found in the foot and the kneecap. Sesamoid bones are bones that attach to tendons, while other bones attach to bone joints.


As most of us know, bone joints are where the condition of arthritis sets in. Arthritis is a painful condition marked by stiff joints. There are two types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the lining of your joints, while osteoarthritis is the name given to deterioration of the joint cartilage, which is a tissue that allows for smooth joint functioning.


Now that we’ve broken that down, there is a specific arthritis that occurs at the joint and the base of the big toe. This arthritis type has a name of its own, Hallux rigidus. This affects one out of 40 persons over 50 with many cases beginning at age 30. The joint, specifically, is called the hallux metatarsal phalangeal joint, also known as the MTP joint.

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Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis


The most common symptom associated with Hallux rigidus is a pain in the big toe joint. When the joint is inflamed, it may be difficult to walk or squat. It may be red due to the inflammation. It may also be difficult to wear shoes, especially shoes that push against the big toe. The cause of this condition is unknown, although it is assumed that small anatomic differences in foot structure contribute to hallux rigidus. A family history of big toe arthritis likely raises the risk of developing this condition as does repeated injuries of the big toe joint. A diagnosis is done with a physical exam that includes the doctor watching the patient sit, stand, and walk. After that, X-ray imaging can be used to examine the big toe joint.




Your podiatrist will likely start treatment with non-surgical options that include anti-inflammatory medications along with cold or hot compresses to control swelling and pain. Various injections can also be effective, including platelet-rich plasma injections. The success of this type of treatment varies from patient to patient. A change to a less stressful (softer) shoe can help, as can various shoe inserts.


There are surgical options, as well. These options are usually held back as a last resort used when other treatments don’t work.




There are several available types of foot surgery Phoenix that residents can find to reduce or eliminate joint pain of the big toe. Here are the common options:


Removing bone spurs can help. The procedure is called a cheilectomy. With bone spurs out of the way, the big toe joint has more movement freedom. The surgeon will also suggest removing some bone that can allow the big toe to move into another position.


Joint Fusion can also help, although it is not deployed, generally, until all other options fail and the case is particularly advanced. The fusion stabilizes the big toe joint, which will alter your range of functioning. Most patients maintain an active life after a joint fusion, while others find that it limits their function. Some podiatrists in Phoenix recommend joint resurfacing, a procedure called an interpositional arthroplasty. In this surgery, doctors remove some bone and place cushions between the bones that are causing trouble. After this, the two bones with the spacer between them cannot rub against each other, which is a significant cause of the pain.

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