Hammertoe is a foot deformity that causes a toe to bend downward to form a hammer-like shape. While any toe can be affected, this abnormality typically develops within the second or third toe. A condition that often progresses over time, hammertoe may be correctable with non-surgical treatments if it’s diagnosed and treated early enough. You may be referred to the best hammertoe specialist in Los Angeles for more advanced care if this deformity is first detected during a visit to your regular doctor. This type of specialist often takes the following steps when treating patients with hammertoe.
Performing a Thorough Foot Exam
The best hammertoe specialist in Los Angeles typically performs an initial foot exam to determine the extent of the deformity. Patients with hammertoe often have corns or calluses that may require treatment as well because of toe friction caused by the downward bend. Image tests may be performed if it’s suspected that bone, muscle, or ligament injuries might be further restricting the affected toe’s flexibility.
Recommending Non-Surgical Treatments
It may be possible for the best hammertoe specialist in Los Angeles to treat this deformity non-surgically if the affected toe hasn’t become rigid. Padding may be recommended to allow related corns and calluses to heal. The hammertoe deformity itself may become less severe by wearing over-the-counter insoles or custom orthotics. Foot and toe exercises targeting extensor muscles that originate in the lower leg might help pull the affected toe upward.
If it’s suspected that ill-fitting shoes may have contributed to hammertoe, patients are usually advised to wear less-restrictive shoes and avoid shoes with narrow toe boxes or excessively high heels. If bunions are present, medication is usually effective. Hammertoe may also be reversible or manageable with:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- The application of splints, medical tape, or a small strap where the toe is bent
- Gel-lined toe socks
- Metatarsal (“met”) pads to relieve pressure in the area just below the toes
Determining If Surgery for Hammertoe Is Necessary
Should it be impossible or very difficult to flex the affected toe, surgery is usually the only treatment likely to provide relief and reverse the deformity. The most common procedure likely to be performed by the best hammertoe specialist in Los Angeles involves the release of a tendon that’s preventing the affected toe from strengthening out. If hammertoe is severe, it may be necessary to reposition the affected toe, cut certain ligaments, or remove damaged bones or soft tissues. Most hammertoe procedures can be done as outpatient operations.
If bones are removed, pins are typically temporarily used to keep the toe in the correct position. Following surgery, it’s usually necessary to wear a special shoe, keep the affected toe elevated as much as possible, and avoid excessive pressure or stress on the affected foot until tissues heal. If pins were inserted, they are usually removed after a few weeks.
The best hammertoe specialist in Los Angeles may recommend further preventative foot care steps after hammertoe is successfully treated if underlying health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, and poor foot circulation may have contributed to this deformity. Patients with such conditions may be advised to have regular foot exams, use arch supports or pads to ease foot stress, or wear roomier shoes that are comfortable and supportive to reduce the risk of developing other foot-related problems.