A hammertoe is a painful foot ailment caused by a muscle and ligament imbalance. This imbalance around the toe joint causes the middle of the toe to bend and get stuck in a claw-like position. Hammertoes often happen to women from wearing pointed shoes, or to people with poor circulation. Fortunately, a foot doctor in Chattanooga can successfully treat this problem.
A podiatrist may recommend changing footwear to treat the hammertoe initially. The shoes should have roomy toe boxes and good arch support. This will give the toe room to straighten and keep it from rubbing on the shoe. You can also buy hammertoe pads to help relieve pressure. The doctor may also suggest gently massaging the toe, placing ice packs on it, or taking non-prescription pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. You can also try moleskin, arch supports, and orthotic shoe inserts. These basically cushion the toe to reduce pain.
If the hammertoe is flexible, non-surgical treatments will be recommended. One of these treatments is taping the hammertoe in place. Tape or a splint can gently hold the toe in the straight position. Toe caps or slings work in a similar manner. The podiatrist may also give you stretching exercises so that the toe joints will remain flexible. The exercises generally involve gently pulling on the toe to stretch the bent joint in the opposite direction. These stretches should be done in the morning and evening. Picking up small items with the toes can also help build strength.
Sometimes a hammertoe is too severe to treat without surgery. This is especially true of rigid hammertoes. There are a few surgical options available. Phalangeal head resection removes part of the toe bone so that the toe can stay flat. Joint fusion involves the removal of part of the toe joint so that the bones can fuse back together in a straight position. The doctor may also choose to remove or cut supporting tissues and tendons so that the joint can relax and allow the toe to straighten. In very rare and extreme cases, the toe may need to be amputated. A foot doctor in Chattanooga can recommend the best surgical and non-surgical options for your needs.