When Is the Right Time for Hammer Toe Surgery?

Hammer toe is a condition that affects one or more of the middle toes on the foot. The term describes a deformity in which the affected toe points up instead of lying flat. It’s caused by weak muscles in the toe that put extra pressure on the toe’s tendons. This causes the toe to bend upwards and become deformed. For some cases of hammer toe, a foot specialist in The Woodlands, TX, can recommend nonsurgical treatments, but in other cases, surgery may be necessary. Here are some factors that the doctor will consider to help determine when it’s time for foot and ankle surgery to correct hammer toe.

 

Toe splint Unsuccessful Alternate Treatments

There are some lifestyle changes and less invasive treatments your doctor will probably recommend before resorting to surgery. These include wearing shoes that have plenty of room in the toe box. There should be at least a half inch between the longest toe and the tip of the shoe. Heels higher than two inches should also be avoided to prevent aggravating the hammer toe. There are hammer toe pads you can purchase that fit around the tip of the toe to relieve pressure and irritation from shoes. Gentle massage and ice can also help with swelling and pain. You may need custom inserts to relieve pain as well. Your doctor will have you try exercises and splints in the early stages of hammer toe to try to restore muscle balance. If these treatments prove unsuccessful, you may need surgery.


Additional Foot Problems

Another reason you may need surgery to correct hammer toe is if you’ve developed additional foot problems because of the deformity. It’s common for people suffering from hammer toe to develop corns, heel spurs, or bunions because of the increased pressure. When this is the case, the doctor will often recommend surgery so that all the foot problems can be treated during the same operation. In addition, if you’re developing sores or ulcers from the deformity, it’s usually best to just fix the problem with surgery.


Foot doctor examining patient Severe Pain and Stiffness

Severe cases of hammer toe in which the toe is extremely sore or stiff will also usually require surgery. It’s very difficult to correct a severe case of hammer toe with exercises and lifestyle changes because the tendons become stiffer and will rarely respond to exercises at advanced stages of the deformity.

 

Types of Surgery

When your doctor determines surgery is the best option, there are a few different types to choose from depending on whether you have flexible or rigid hammer toe. For flexible hammer toe, the doctor may do a tendon transfer. A tendon will be transferred from the bottom to the top of toe to help straighten the joint. Tendon release is another option in which the tendon is cut partially or entirely to restore range of movement and treat pain and deformity. For rigid hammer toe, the doctor may do joint resection. This involves the removal of the end of the bone where the toe is bent so that the toe can straighten. Another option is fusion, where the ends of the hammer toe bone are cut so that they’ll fuse together as they heal. In both options, the tendons and ligaments are cut so that the toe will straighten.

 

If you have hammer toe, contact Ankle & Foot Specialists of Conroe, The Woodlands today to make an appointment. Our foot doctors in The Woodlands, TX, will determine if surgery is right for you.