Macksville Clinic - 2/12 Cooper St, Macksville, NSW, 2447 - Nambucca Heads Clinic - 20 Liston St, Nambucca Heads, NSW, 2448

Conditions of a Big Toe

What Types of Conditions are there with a Big Toe?

You may be experiencing pain in your big toe for a number of reason including:

  • Turf Toe – This is a sprain of the joint at the base of your ‘big toe’. It is caused by an injury such as hyperextension or stubbing of the big toe in which causes swelling and possible bruising.
  • Hallux limitus – This causes stiffness of the first metatarsal phalangeal joint, therefore, limiting movement. This progressive stiffness can lead to arthritis and the development of small bone spurs in which can affect your walking ability.
  • Hallux Valgus/Bunions – This is a condition where the first toe progressively deviates and begins to point toward the second toe, therefore, causing pain and affecting your walking ability.
  • Gout – This is a condition where inflammatory arthritis leads to joint pain, swelling and redness, commonly affecting the big toe. Gout will only attack one joint at a time, unlike other inflammatory arthritis.

What causes big toe pain?

Turf toe is caused by:

  • playing on artificial turf
  • wearing soft footwear may increase the risk.

Hallux limitus can occur as:

  • A result of previous trauma or high big toe loads.
  • Can be related to inflammatory arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Hallux valgus can occur:

  • By wearing pointed or narrow shoes
  • If your gender is female
  • If you have a birth defect or laxity of the big toe joint
  • If you have an excessively flat foot

How do I know if I have a condition of the big toe?

You will most likely know if you have one of these conditions as it will usually cause you pain in the joint of your big toe and will limit movement therefore affecting your walking ability. Hallux limitus and valgus is a long term condition usually affected older people. Turf toe is very limited and usually occurs in sporting injuries. Our physiotherapist will be able to diagnose the condition you have by accessing the movement of your big toe and foot. If your physiotherapist believes it is more serious they will refer you to a GP investigation and treatment.

How can physiotherapy help with conditions of the big toe?

Your physiotherapist will be able to help you with Turf toe by:

  • Advising ice and offload of the foot in the early stages to possible settle pain and inflammation.
  • Possibly advising anti-inflammatory
  • May be advised to have an X-ray and immobilised the foot or use crutches
  • Mild cases you may be asked to tape big toe

Your physiotherapist will be able to help you with Hallux limitus by:

  • Completely a treatment that consists of joint mobilisation in which will hopefully allow you to improve with walking etc.
  • Giving you stretching and strengthening exercises to complete at home
  • Giving you an assessment of footwear
  • Giving you a prescription of an orthotic
  • In severe cases, your physiotherapist may refer you to get surgery.

Your physiotherapist will be able to help you with Hallux valgus by:

  • Giving you an assessment of footwear, modifications may be needed in which you will be prescribed an orthotic or using different shoes
  • Showing you taping techniques or toe spacers may be used to provide relief.
  • Giving you strengthening exercises for the foot muscles which can be completed at home.
  • Prescribing you with a medications that can settle the pain.
  • Referring you to get surgery if it is severe.

Your physiotherapist is not the first line of management for Gout, you will have to  see you GP for further information.

How long will my recovery be?

For turf toe injuries it will depend on the severity of the injury when you are able to return to your normal activities, minor injuries will allow you to return to sport within a week where more severe injuries can take up to 3 months. As hallux valgus and limitus are more progressive and long term conditions, it is difficult to set a time frame when you will be recovered as you may never regain full movement and function of the big toe.

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.