Osteoarthritis of Toe


We are often asked about osteoarthritis in the clinic, as it is a painful condition that affects many people. The main site of osteoarthritis in the foot occurs in the joint of your big toe, referred to in medical terms as the first metatarsal phalangeal (MTP) joint. The MTP moves with each step, so osteoarthritis at this joint causes a great deal of pain when walking.

Furthermore, stiffness in the joint decreases your ability to generate power from your great toe, which limits your ability to participate in activities such as running, climbing, or skiing. Osteoarthritis of the big toe can progress to hallux limitus, in which the mobility of the joint is limited, followed the extreme case of hallux rigidus, in which the joint is essentially immobile. This is why it is important to better understand osteoarthritis of the big toe, how it is typically diagnosed, and how it is treated.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis we see in the clinic are pain and stiffness. In the joints of our bodies there are hard, smooth surfaces covering the ends of each bone. These smooth surfaces are made of cartilage and they allow the bones to glide smoothly and painlessly against each other. With time or trauma, these smooth surfaces begin to wear down, exposing the rough, pumice stone-like surfaces of the underlying bones. This is the process behind osteoarthritis. As these rough, boney surfaces grind on one another they can cause pain. Additionally, these rough surfaces cannot easily move against each other, leading to stiffness of the joint.

Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed with a standard x-ray of the joint, which we are able to perform here at Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle (OSS). On the x-ray we would look for narrowing of the joint at the big toe, which would indicate to us that you might have osteoarthritis.

Treatments of Osteoarthritis

If caught early, osteoarthritis can be treated non-surgically through physical therapy. If it progresses, however, surgery may be necessary. The main surgical options include joint fusion, as well as a procedure called Cartiva, which is used to treat hallux rigidus.

Here at OSS we have board-certified and fellowship-trained foot and ankle orthopedic surgeons who have made the Cartiva procedure part of their practice. If you are experiencing pain and are worried you may have osteoarthritis, you can contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.