A hammertoe develops when the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint of the big toe, where it bends when walking, become imbalanced. The middle joint of the toe begins to bend into an abnormal position pointing in toward the other toes and the stays off balance. In most cases, the toe is then exposed to a great deal of rubbing and friction which causes discomfort and aggravation of the skin. Hammertoes can sometimes develop on toes that curl, usually the pinky toe and its neighbor. Since the high-heels and pointed shoes frequently worn by women force the toes into tight confines, increasing the pressure, women can develop hammertoes more frequently than men. People with diabetes or poor circulation can be particularly plagued by hammertoes. There are two types of hammertoes:
Throughout the body, the muscles work in pairs. The toes are no different, with a set of balanced muscles on either side. When these muscles are no longer in balance, usually when one is stronger than the other, a hammertoe develops. This causes pressure to accumulate on the joints and tendons. This pressure forces the toe into the hammerhead shape. The imbalance is typically the result of:
Appropriately fitted shoes, orthotics, and padding can alleviate the pressure on the toe joint and assist it to move back into its correct position. When the hammertoe is very severe, surgery might be required. Surgery will be used when more conventional therapies have not been successful.
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