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Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus)

What is hallux rigidus?

Hallux rigidus is an arthritic condition of the big toe joint leading to pain and stiffness.

What causes hallux rigidus?

Hallux ridigus is thought to be due to repetitive motion and stress across the big toe joint from walking, running, and athletic activities. This can progress gradually over years as the cartilage wears out on the top half of the joint. Over time, large bone spurs can develop which may be painful.

What are the symptoms of hallux rigidus?

The symptoms of hallux rigidus include, pain, stiffness and swelling of the big toe joint. Hallux rigidus may also be associated with large bone spurs on the top of the big toe that are painful with shoe wear.

How is hallux rigidus diagnosed?

The diagnosis of hallux rigidus begins with a thorough history and physical examination. X-rays will be ordered to determine the severity of the arthritis and to assess the presence and size of associated bone spurs.

How is hallux rigidus treated?

Nonsurgical treatment

Mild hallux rigidus can be treated conservatively by changing to stiff-soled rocker shoes to decrease the force across the big toe joint, using orthotics to restore the foot to a normal position, physical therapy to improve motion of the joint, and cortisone injections and anti-inflammatory pain medication.


In severe cases, and when conservative therapy fails, surgery may be recommended. There are multiple surgical procedures used to hallux rigidus. These include removing inflamed tissue from the joint, removing the arthritic portion of the bone, shaving off bone spurs, inserting a synthetic cartilage implant, and fusing to bones together. Your surgeon will discuss with you the options and help you select the most appropriate procedure based on your individual condition and X-rays.