Gradual Onset of Pain
Hallux rigidus typically begins with a gradual onset of pain in the big toe joint. This pain is often localized to the joint and might become worse while walking or doing other activities that require flexing the toe. In some cases, the pain may come and go, but it usually worsens over time as the condition progresses.
Stiffness in the big toe is a common symptom of hallux rigidus. This stiffness can make it difficult to move the toe up and down, especially after periods of rest or inactivity. It can also hinder normal walking, running, or other activities that involve the toe.
Difficulty with Certain Shoes
People with hallux rigidus often have difficulty wearing certain types of shoes, particularly those with high heels or narrow toe boxes. These shoes can put extra pressure on the big toe joint, exacerbating pain and discomfort.
Inflammation and Swelling
Hallux rigidus can lead to inflammation and swelling of the big toe joint. This swelling may be intermittent or persistent, depending on the stage of the disease. Applying ice and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help manage these symptoms.
The pain and stiffness associated with hallux rigidus may cause a person to limp or alter their gait. This change in walking pattern can potentially lead to secondary issues like knee, hip, or back pain over time.
Limited Range of Motion
Hallux rigidus can limit the range of motion in the big toe. This can make certain movements and activities challenging, like squatting, climbing stairs, or even standing on tiptoes.
Development of Bone Spurs
Over time, hallux rigidus can cause the formation of bone spurs, or osteophytes, around the big toe joint. These bony growths can contribute to joint stiffness and pain, and they may be visible on an X-ray.
Changes in Toe Appearance
As hallux rigidus progresses, it can cause changes in the appearance of the big toe. It may appear enlarged or misshapen due to bone spurs, swelling, and changes in joint alignment.
Difficulty with Balance
The pain and stiffness of hallux rigidus can make it hard to maintain balance, particularly when standing on one foot or walking on uneven surfaces. This could potentially increase the risk of falls and related injuries.
Reduction in Physical Activity
People with hallux rigidus may find it painful to participate in activities they once enjoyed, like running or dancing. This reduction in physical activity can have further impacts on overall health and wellbeing.
Cold and Damp Weather Sensitivity
Some people with hallux rigidus may notice that their symptoms worsen in cold and damp weather. This is thought to be related to changes in blood flow and joint fluid consistency under these conditions.
Crepitus (Crackling or Grinding Noise)
In some cases, hallux rigidus can cause crepitus, which is a crackling or grinding noise when the toe joint is moved. This can be accompanied by a sensation of grating in the joint.
Increased Pain with Activity
With hallux rigidus, pain often increases with activity and weight-bearing. Walking long distances, standing for prolonged periods, or participating in high-impact activities may exacerbate discomfort.
Improvement of Pain with Rest
Resting the foot often helps to alleviate pain associated with hallux rigidus. However, the relief may be temporary, and symptoms usually return once activity is resumed.