Hammer toes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joints. There are two types. Flexible and rigid. In a flexible Hammer toes
, the joint has the ability to move. This type of hammer toe can be
straightened manually. A rigid hammer toe does not have that same ability to move. Movement is very limited and can be extremely painful. This sometimes causes foot movement to become restricted
leading to extra stress at the ball-of-the-foot, and possibly causing pain and the development of corns and calluses.
Wearing shoes that squeeze the toes or high heels that jam the toes into the front of the shoe. Other causes or factors in the development of hammertoes can include an injury such as badly stubbing
your toe, arthritis and nerve and muscle damage from diseases such as diabetes. And, hammertoes tend to run in families, although it is more likely the faulty foot mechanics that lead to hammertoes
that are inherited, not the hammertoes themselves. Hammertoe generally affect the smaller toes of the foot, especially the second toe, which for many people is the longest toe. It's uncommon for the
big toe to be bent this way.
Hammer, claw, and mallet toes can cause discomfort and pain and may make it hard to walk. Shoes may rub on your toes, causing pain, blisters, calluses or corns, or sores. Sores can become infected
and lead to cellulitis or osteomyelitis, especially if you have diabetes or peripheral arterial disease. If you have one of these health problems and sores develop, contact your doctor.
Hammer toes may be easily detected through observation. The malformation of the person's toes begin as mild distortions, yet may worsen over time - especially if the factors causing the hammer toes
are not eased or removed. If the condition is paid attention to early enough, the person's toes may not be permanently damaged and may be treated without having to receive surgical intervention. If
the person's toes remain untreated for too long, however the muscles within the toes might stiffen even more and will require invasive procedures to correct the deformity.
Non Surgical Treatment
Many people start by treating the problem themselves when they have a painful corn or callus. They try to remove the corn by cutting it off or by applying strong acids, and they try to cushion the
toe by applying cushioned pads. Because these treatments can be difficult to perform by oneself (and should never be done by oneself when the patient is diabetic or circulation is poor), and because
these treatments only treat the symptom, not the structural deformity that causes their symptom, these treatments can often provide only limited success, and often any success is for only short
periods of time. Changes in shoe choices and various types of paddings and other appliances may help, too. For longer-lasting help, we must examine the cause of the deformity. The reason for knowing
the cause is that the type of treatment will vary, depending upon the cause of the complaint. Orthotics help control the causes of certain types of contracted toes, (those caused by flexor
stabilization, for example), but not other types.
Sometimes, if the deformity is severe hammertoes
enough or surgical modification is needed, the toe bones may be fused so that the toe
does not bend. Buried wires are used to allow for the fusion to heal, and they remain in place after healing. Your skin is closed with fine sutures, which are typically removed seven to ten days
after surgery. A dressing is used to help keep your toes in their new position. Dressings should not get wet or be removed. After surgery, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers, typically for the
initial four to seven days. Most people heal completely within one month of surgery, with few complications, if any. Crutches or a cane may be needed to help you keep weight off your affected foot,
depending on the procedure. Occasionally, patients receive a special post-op shoe or a walking boot that is to be worn during the healing process. Most people are able to shower normally after
surgery, but must protect the dressing from getting wet. Many patients are allowed to resume driving within one week after the procedure, but care needs to be taken.