Hammer, Claw, and Mallet Toes - Topic Overview
How are they treated? continued...
If your toe joint is flexible, you can also try:
- Taping a hammer toe. Wrap tape under the big toe (or the toe next to the
hammer toe), then over the hammer toe, and then under the next toe. This gently
forces the hammer toe into a normal position. But it doesn't straighten the toe
- Toe caps, slings, or splints. These hold toes in a
normal position, much like taping does.
- Exercises that help
keep the toe joints flexible and strong, such as the ones listed below. Your doctor or physical therapist may
be able to suggest more exercises.
- Gently pull on your toes to stretch the bent joints. For
example, if a joint bends up, gently stretch it down. Hold for several seconds. You should feel a long, slow, gentle pull. Work on one joint at
a time. Do this several times, morning and evening.
- Do towel curls . Put a
towel flat under your feet and use your toes to
- Do marble pickups . Use your toes to pick up marbles and drop them in a cup.
Call your doctor if your pain doesn't go
away or it gets worse after 2 to 3 weeks of home treatment, or if you get a sore
on your affected toe. Sores can get infected and lead to
osteomyelitis, especially if you have
peripheral arterial disease.
Will you need surgery?
In general, surgery is used only for severe toe problems. You may need surgery if other treatments don't control your pain, if your toe limits
activity, or if you can't move the toe joint.
For fixed toe
problems, doctors often do surgery on the bones. Doctors can often treat flexible toe problems by moving tendons to release tension
on the joint and let the toe straighten. In some cases, the surgery for a flexible toe problem will still include work on the bones.
Your options may include one or more of the following:
- Removing part of the toe
bone. This is called phalangeal head resection, or arthroplasty.
- Removing part of the joint and letting the toe bones grow together. This is called joint fusion, or arthrodesis.
- Cutting supporting tissues
tendons in the toe joint.
- Getting a toe implant to replace a bent joint or straighten a toe.
- In rare cases, removing the toe (amputation).