There are many reasons why your big toe could hurt. We put a tremendous amount of weight on this part of our foot. It’s a wonder our big toes can hold up to so much pounding.
We’ll often see someone come in with big toe pain but have no visual signs of anything unusual. No report of an injury is usually the case. Some big toe conditions are obvious but some aren’t.
I’d like to share some of the most common reasons why the big toe could hurt.
Ingrown Toenail – this condition isn’t always so obvious. A big toenail that grows into the skin can cause the whole toe to hurt. It could be painful with or without shoes on. Usually, pressing on it a certain way would trigger pain. Fortunately, an ingrown nail is easy for us to diagnose and treat. A simple office treatment can relieve the pain immediately.
Arthritis – you don’t have to be 80 years old to get arthritis in your big toe. There’s an arthritic condition called Hallux Limitus that can occur as young as 35. Certain activities and shoes trigger the pain. It can make the big toe feel quite uncomfortable. The easy way to diagnose it is with an X-ray. If caught early enough arthritis of the big toe joint can be treated without surgery. Many people with this condition do however ultimately need surgery.
Sesamoiditis – this strange word refers to inflammation of a small bone under the big toe called a sesamoid. We have two of these bones per foot. The pain from this would mostly be under the big toe. People who have high arches and are very active are most prone to sesamoiditis. An exam alone can diagnose this but an X-ray is needed to determine if a fracture or arthritis is present.
Nerve Pain – there’s a nerve on the outside of the big toe where the toe connects to the foot that can get irritated. Sharp or burning pain are most evident. It can be caused by certain shoes, a minor injury, or certain activities. Hikers can get this because of the strain on their feet being on uneven surfaces. Since there are no visible signs of a nerve condition, an exam and X-rays are needed to make an accurate diagnosis.
There are many more conditions that can make the big toe hurt. Any swelling or discoloration of the big toe or any part of the foot should be attended to immediately. Infection and poor circulation that goes unaddressed can have dire consequences.
Pain in the big toe that lasts more than a week should be examined and X-Rayed by a Podiatrist. Urgent Care clinics can often misdiagnose a big toe condition, so ideally see a specialist of the foot… your Podiatrist.
Whatever the diagnosis, the earlier it’s attended to the better chance for immediate relief and the lower the odds of a long-term problem. A long-standing big toe condition can significantly hamper your desire to keep active.