While many people are familiar with a hip, knee, and even elbow replacement, how about a big toe replacement? While not as widely discussed as other types of joint replacements, a big toe joint replacement can provide much-needed relief for patients with severe osteoarthritis of the first metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ).

According to research, between 35% and 65% of adults ages 65 and older are affected by osteoarthritis of the first metatarsophalangeal, otherwise known as “the big toe.”

No matter what age or stage of life you happen to be in, EmergeOrtho Foot and Ankle Doctors utilize advanced skills and innovative technology to help thousands of patients find relief for pain, stiffness, and other symptoms that affect the big toe.

Why Would the Big Toe Joint Need to be Replaced?

A male orthopedic foot and ankle doctor assesses a patient’s foot with hallux rigidus for possible big toe replacement.

Typically, big toe replacement is needed to help those dealing with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. In fact, the most common source of arthritis in the foot occurs at the base of the MTP joint. Often, bone spurs develop on the great toe joint due to bones rubbing together. When this happens, the big toe becomes stiff, a condition referred to as “hallux rigidus.”

Patients with osteoarthritis of the big toe may experience the following symptoms:

  • Joint pain in the big toe (especially during activity)
  • Swelling of the MTP joint
  • Stiffness in the great toe
  • Mobility problems (not being able to bend the toe up or down)
  • Bump, callus, or bunion that appears on the top of the foot

Performing a joint replacement procedure reduces severe arthritis pain that dramatically limits the range of motion between the big toe and your foot.

What Happens During a Big Toe Replacement?

During surgical treatment for big toe repair, the main joint in the big toe may be replaced with an artificial joint (made of metal or plastic). This not only relieves pain, but it also restores the great toe function and improves range of motion.

Great toe replacement is performed in a hospital, and patients are placed under general anesthesia. The surgeon will remove the damaged cartilage portions of the MTP joint through an incision on the top of your great toe.

Then, the bone surfaces are prepared for the artificial joint, which is then attached.

Big Toe Joint Surgery Recovery Time

During your initial recovery from big toe replacement surgery, you may be required to wear a cast for up to six weeks (with the addition of crutches).

After your sutures are removed, you will start simple weight-bearing activities, such as walking, while wearing hard-soled shoes to ensure proper healing. It is important to note that you may not be able to put your full weight on the toe for up to eight weeks. Physical therapy for your big toe may be recommended during the healing process, based on your surgeon’s recommendations.

Is Surgery Always Required for Arthritis and Hallux Rigidus?

No, not always. Whenever possible, our EmergeOrtho doctors attempt to treat many orthopedic injuries utilizing conservative methods.

Nonsurgical treatments for big toe pain and stiffness may include:

  • Steroid injections
  • Medication
  • Metal bracing
  • Specialized footwear

If nonoperative treatment methods fail to relieve symptoms of big toe osteoarthritis and/or hallux rigidus, surgical options will likely be recommended.

Put Your Trust (and Toes) in EmergeOrtho

At EmergeOrtho, we specialize in offering professional, patient-centered orthopedic care to help each and every patient Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better. Our goal is to return you to your day-to-day activities as quickly and safely as possible.

If you need orthopedic treatment for your big toe, it is important to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Foot and Ankle orthopedic surgeons. Schedule a consultation now with one of our highly-qualified EmergeOrtho physicians, and get closer to your road to recovery.

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