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Family Foot & Ankle

Conservative Approaches to Delay (or Prevent) Hammertoe Surgery

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Feet with HammertoesHave hammertoes? You’re not alone. This condition (along with its close siblings, mallet toe and claw toe) are among the most common toe deformities, and tend to run in families. If this potentially painful condition strikes your own toes, you may struggle to know what to do. Maybe mom or grandma had to have them corrected with surgery—will that happen to you, too?

We’ll get the bad news out of the way first: surgery is the only way to “fix” hammertoes, in the sense of permanently realigning the digit to its normal location. The bend isn’t going away any other way. However, there’s a lot of good news for people out there, too—if you seek podiatric care right at the beginning, you may well be able to manage your hammertoes through conservative means, delaying or even indefinitely preventing surgical correction.

When hammertoes are young, the toes may only be bent slightly, and the joint itself may still be fully flexible. You might not be able to straighten the digit using your toe muscles alone, but you can easily move it about with your fingers. Without treatment, the bend will worsen and the joint will become rigid, leading to significant pain and necessitating surgery. However, with conservative treatment, you can significantly slow or even stop the progression of damage and continue to live without pain.

The best treatment modalities may vary depending on the underlying cause of your hammertoes, but several are common. Perhaps the simplest is making smart shoe choices—choose styles that offer lots of space at the front of the shoe so toes aren’t so cramped, and make sure they have plenty of support to keep the weight and pressure off sensitive areas.

Custom orthotics are frequently one of the best alternatives to surgery. Hammertoes are often related to an underlying defect in foot structure, and the right custom orthotic not only corrects or accommodates the flaw, but also relieves weight and pressure from the painful toe. Other conservative treatments might include splinting or taping the bent toe, or developing a physical therapy program to strengthen weakened muscles and prevent them from deteriorating further.

If your hammertoes are still flexible, surgery is not inevitable! Let Family Foot and Ankle Center help find an alternative that keeps you away from the operating table as long as possible. Of course, if you do need surgery, we can help with that, too, but we want to give you every possible option to get you back on your feet. To schedule an appointment, please call us today at 888-689-3317.
Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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