Hammertoe Alternative Treatment
Hammertoe, claw toe and mallet toe are all types of malformed toes. Typically it is the second toe, next to the largest toe, that is curled under. This is sometimes a result of the toe being too long or secondary to a bunion, a painful growth of bone on the outside of the first toe. Many things can be done to relieve the pain of hammertoe before surgery is necessary.
Change of Shoes
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons first recommends a change of shoes. Many times a toe box that is too narrow or short will cause the toes to compress on each other or curl under to make room. Shoes can be bought with wider and deeper toe boxes, or a cobbler can stretch out your current shoes to make room for the toes. Allowing room for the toes to stretch out will prevent the problem from getting worse. The AAOS states there should be a half inch of space between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
Due to the curling of the toes, the knuckle area of the toes will brush along the top of the toe box or curl under another toe, causing painful blisters and calluses. The calluses can be prevented by purchasing mole skin---a soft material with an adhesive side---or callus covers at drugstores. These covers will help keep the pain down and prevent the calluses from growing further. The Mayo Clinic website states that it is important to not remove these calluses by cutting them off without the aid of a professional. Improper removal can damage the skin underneath and lead to further problems, especially for those with diabetes, whose wounds take a longer time to heal.
As the toes curl under, they also begin to stiffen up along with the rest of the foot. In early or mild stages of hammertoe, MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, recommends manipulation of the foot to help keep the toes moving and flexible. Chiropractors can adjust the toes and other bones of the foot to keep the joints moving properly. Additionally, chiropractors and other health professionals can prescribe specific night splints that help correct the position of the toes.
As the joints stiffen and curl, pain and inflammation develop. Icing the area will help keep the pain down, and it is easy to do, as the toes are small and only take a couple of ice cubes and three to five minutes to ice completely.
Grabbing the toes and moving them back and forth gently will help stretch the toes, according to the AAOS. The Mayo Clinic recommends specific strengthening exercises, including picking up marbles with the toes, scrunching towels, and generally using the feet and toes to pick up items off the floor, as a means to correct the position of the toes.
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