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Is Surgery the Only Treatment for Hammertoes?

If you have a hammertoe, you may be embarrassed to go to the beach or wear sandals. You may also have a harder and harder time finding and wearing shoes that don’t rub painfully against the corns and calluses at the top of your arched toe joint.

A hammertoe bends up at the middle joint because of an imbalance in your toe muscles and ligaments. Instead of lying flat, your toe contracts upward, so that it looks like the handle and head of a hammer. Hammertoes usually develop in one or more of your three middle toes, particularly the toe nearest your big toe.

Michael Frazier, DPM, is an expert at diagnosing and treating hammertoe at The Frazier Foot and Ankle Center in Cypress, Texas. Though hammertoes never resolve on their own, if you catch them early enough, you can treat them with nonsurgical, noninvasive therapies that straighten and strengthen your toes.

Can you pull your toe straight?

If you can still manipulate your toe at the deformed joint, you probably don’t need surgery to fix your hammertoe. Dr. Frazier may give you exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons in your toe so they straighten out again. 

He may also recommend taping or splinting your toe to stretch out the contracted muscle. You may need to wear the splint at night, too. 

Because your footwear may have caused or worsened your hammertoe, Dr. Frazier advises you to avoid high-heeled shoes and shoes with narrow or pointed toe boxes. Your toes should have space to lie flat and comfortably in your shoes without overlapping one another. He may prescribe custom-designed orthotics that help balance your feet and keep them in healthy alignment to prevent your hammertoe from getting worse. 

If wearing shoes is painful, he might advise softening or removing your calluses or corns with in-office treatments. You can also use nonmedicated callus pads to alleviate the pressure on your toe when you wear shoes.

Is your toe completely frozen?

If you can’t move your toe at the joint anymore, you may not respond to conservative treatments. Though Dr. Frazier still advises switching to sensible, comfortable shoes and may prescribe orthotics, he might also recommend surgery.

Dr. Frazier specializes in minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. An arthroscope is a miniature camera that Dr. Frazier inserts through a small incision so that he can visualize your toe joint and its ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Through another small incision he may cut a tendon so that your toe can lie straight again, or he may fuse the joint together so that it remains in a straight position permanently.

You may need to have pins in your toe while it heals. Dr. Frazier removes the pins after a few weeks.

Though hammertoe surgery can give you relief, the best course of action is to treat your hammertoe before it becomes rigid. If you have diabetes or another risk factor for hammertoes and other foot problems, you should have your feet examined at least once a year to avoid hammertoes and other complications.

To treat your hammertoe and feel good about your feet again, contact us today by calling 281-607-1863 or messaging us with the online form.

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