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When Is Surgery Necessary for Hammertoe?

If you have a hammertoe, which gets its name from the hammer-like shape your toe takes, you’re no stranger to the pain and discomfort it brings. This deformity usually affects your second, third, or fourth toe.  

At Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers, our skilled providers have years of experience diagnosing and treating the different types of hammertoes, along with other foot conditions. 

With hammertoe, the condition develops from an imbalance in the muscles and ligaments surrounding your toe joints. This imbalance causes your toe to bend or curl downward rather than lie flat. 

Symptoms of hammertoes often include:

There are two primary types of hammertoe. With flexible hammertoe, the toe can still move at the joint and may be manually straightened. With rigid hammertoe, however, the joint deformities are fixed (unable to move) and cannot be manually corrected. 

This doesn’t mean that surgery isn’t an option for rigid hammertoes! It’s important to seek medical advice from a podiatric specialist, like our team, because when left untreated, hammertoes can lead to open sores or ulcers, along with other complications. 

Here’s a look at different treatment options for hammertoe and when surgery is necessary. 

Are there nonsurgical treatments for hammertoes?

Yes! Our providers like to start with nonsurgical treatment options for hammertoes. Going through an invasive surgery on your foot can mean a long recovery and many of our patients would like to skip the scalpel. 

For lots of people, hammertoes can be managed effectively without surgery. These treatments relieve pain, improve foot function, and prevent the condition from worsening. 

Common nonsurgical treatments for hammertoes include:

However, only a medical professional should decide if surgery is unnecessary, so consult with your Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers provider. 

When do I need surgery for hammertoe?

Nonsurgical treatments are often effective, but some cases of hammertoe require surgery. Usually, this is to correct severe or rigid hammertoes when nonsurgical methods don’t do the trick.

Your Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers provider may also recommend surgery if your hammertoe is causing significant pain, difficulty walking, and other problems. 

Surgery may also be required if a hammertoe has gone too long without treatment and the muscles become rigid and bent. This condition is called contracture, and surgery is the best way to correct it.

How does hammertoe surgery work?

Hammertoe surgery straightens your toe and realigns the joint. The surgery can also correct structural abnormalities, if any. Depending on your case, local or general anesthesia may be used during the procedure. 

Your provider makes an incision in the hammertoe to access the muscles and joints. Most often, a surgical release, or lengthening of the tendons or ligaments causing the hammertoe, is performed. This allows your toe to straighten. 

The surgeon may also need to remove a small part of the bone in the joint so that your toe can straighten fully. This is usually needed if the hammertoe stops the toe from straightening for long periods. 

After the part of the bone is removed, your provider reshapes the bones of your toe so it can extend normally. Finally, temporary metal pins are put in and stay in place while you heal. Recovery time depends on individual circumstances. 

Ready to find out if hammertoe surgery is right for you? Schedule an appointment online or over the phone at the Arlington/Mansfield Foot & Ankle Centers location nearest you.

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