Hammer, mallet, and claw toes have distinctive differences that can assist you in determining what kind of toe problem you are dealing with. All three conditions deal with toes that are curved into
abnormal positions, which possibly look strange and may cause pain. Typically, the big toe is not affected by these problems. A Hammer toes
tends to bend downward at the center of a toe joint.
It generally affects your second toe. The affliction causes the center of your toe to rise and is often accompanied with a bony lump.
The cause of hammertoes varies, but causes include genetics, arthritis and injury to the toe. Treatment for hammertoes depends on the severity and can include anti-inflammatory medication, metatarsal
pads, foot exercises and better-fitting shoes. If the pain caused by a hammertoe is so severe that wearing a shoe is uncomfortable, surgery may be necessary. Typically this surgery is an outpatient
procedure that doesn?t require general anesthesia, though it is an option. Recovery from surgery usually takes a few weeks, and patients are given special shoes to wear.
The symptoms of a hammer toe are usually first noticed when a corn develops on the top of the toe and becomes painful, usually when wearing tight shoes. There may be a bursa under the corn or instead
of a corn, depending on the pressure. Most of the symptoms are due to pressure from footwear on the toe. There may be a callus under the metatarsal head at the base of the toe. Initially a hammer toe
is usually flexible, but when longstanding it becomes more rigid.
Your doctor is very likely to be able to diagnose your hammertoe simply by examining your foot. Even before that, he or she will probably ask about your family and personal medical history and
evaluate your gait as you walk and the types of shoes you wear. You'll be asked about your symptoms, when they started and when they occur. You may also be asked to flex hammertoes
your toe so that your doctor can get an idea of your range of
motion. He or she may order x-rays in order to better define your deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the affected toe is still flexible, you may be able to treat it by taping or splinting the toe to hold it straight. Your family doctor can show you how to do this. You may also try corrective
footwear, corn pads and other devices to reduce pain. You may need to do certain exercises to keep your toe joints flexible. For example, you may need to move and stretch your toe gently with your
hands. You can also exercise by picking things up with your toes. Small or soft objects, such as marbles or towels, work best. If your hammer toe becomes painful, you may need to apply an ice pack
several times a day. This can help relieve the soreness and swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (also called NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (two brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen
(one brand name: Aleve), may be helpful. If your pain and swelling are severe, your doctor may need to give you a steroid injection in the toe joint.
In advanced cases in which the toe has become stiff and permanently bent, the toe can be straightened with surgery. One type of surgery involves removing a small section of the toe bone to allow the
toe to lie flat. Surgery for hammertoe usually is classified as a cosmetic procedure. Cosmetic foot surgeries sometimes result in complications such as pain or numbness, so it's better to treat the
problem with a shoe that fits properly.