Hammer Toe

What is Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe?

A hammer toe is a deformity of the toe which causes the toes to bend, contract, or get crooked resembling a hammer. Immediate treatment helps the hammer toe or contracted toe to get back into its former shape, but if ignored, it results in permanent disfigurement of the toe.

Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe

Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe

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.

What Does a Hammer Toe Look Like?

Symptoms of Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe

Hammer toe or a Contracted toe would have the appearance of a burling or a bent toe. The skin of hammer toe or contracted toe would be thick and puffy with formation of corns or calluses. Patient suffering from hammer toe or contracted toe will experience symptoms of pain when they try to stretch the affected toe. They will have difficulty finding proper fitting footwear because of the hammer toe or the contracted toe.

Causes of Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe

  • Ill-fitting footwear commonly causes the medical condition of hammer toe or contracted toe.
  • 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 causing hammer toe or contracted toe.
  • Hammer toe or contracted 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 suffering from hammer toe or contracted toe.

Treatment of Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe

  • Conservative treatment can be effective for hammer toe or contracted toe in the initial stages when the toes can be straightened manually.
  • One of the ways to treat hammer toe is to stretch the toe tendons by splinting the toe
  • One can try using pads, cushions or straps available over the counter to decrease discomfort caused due to hammer toe or corns/calluses.
  • Patient suffering from hammer toe or contracted toe 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 for hammer toe or contracted toe 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 or Contracted toe which are present by birth should be treated during the early years itself with the help of splinting and manipulations.

How Long Does Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe Last?

Hammer toe or contracted toe is not a condition that will go by itself. It can be permanent if not treated either conservatively or by surgery.

How is Hammer Toe or Contracted Toe Diagnosed?

In most cases, physician will be able to diagnose the condition of hammer toe or contracted toe by just examining and observing the shape of your toe. There are no specific diagnostic studies required to be done to diagnose hammer toe but the doctor may still order and X-ray to see if the toe has been affected by arthritis or not as arthritis too can be a cause for hammer toe.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: June 20, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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