What is Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe?
A hammer toe is a deformity of the toe which causes the toes to bend or get crooked resembling a hammer. Immediate treatment helps the toe to get back into its former shape, but if ignored, it results in permanent disfigurement.
The smaller four toes comprise of 3 bones known as phalanges. These phalanges form two joints known as the interphalangeal joints. The toe curves at the first interphalangeal joint. It can be straightened with treatment, but if it is ignored then it may cause permanent deformity. A corn or callus usually develops on the top of the toe, at the region where it rubs against footwear. This results in pain upon pressure or if anything rubs against it. There may be pain and swelling in the affected joint.
Causes of Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe
- Ill-fitting footwear commonly causes this condition.
- If the toes are placed in a constricted position for a prolonged time it may cause the muscles to shorten and pull the toes into a crooked position.
- Hammer toe may also result from overactivity in the extensor digitorum longus muscle and a weakness in the opposite muscle.
- Hammer toes may also be present congenitally.
- Individuals suffering from diabetes or arthritis in the foot are more prone to it.
Treatment of Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe
- Conservative treatment is sufficient in the initial stages when the toes can be straightened manually.
- Patient should wear shoes which provide more room to the toes. Footwear should be bigger than the actual foot size.
- Exercises can be done to help stretch the toes out. They also help in strengthening the muscles under the foot.
- If there are corns and calluses present with hammer toe, then corn plasters or padding should be used to relieve discomfort.
- If the patient does not benefit from conservative treatment, then surgery is required.
- If the treatment has been delayed resulting in permanent disfigurement of the toe, then also surgery is required for correction by either fusing the joint or cutting the tendon.
- Hammer toes which are present by birth should be treated during the early years itself with the help of splinting and manipulations.