Arthritis of the big toe hallux limitus


Arthritis of the big toe

Osteoarthritis affecting the big toe joint is called Hallux Limitus.

Hallux limitus may be described as a jamming of the big toe joint. The jamming of the joint is commonly caused by excessive foot pronation (rolling in). Hallux limitus may also be secondary to trauma or inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

What are the signs and symptoms of Hallux Limitus?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the big toe joint during activity (walking, running, standing)
  • Swelling and inflammation around the big toe joint
  • Difficulty with certain activities including squatting, kneeling
  • Discomfort with shoes that are cross the big toe joint
  • A bony bump may be visible on the top of the big toe joint
  • Hallux limitus is a progressive deformity that will get worse over time if not treated correctly. The sooner the condition is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.

How is Hallux Limitus diagnosed?

This foot injury is usually diagnosed after taking a history and performing a physical examination. The physical examination includes testing your muscle strength, assessing joint range of motion, checking your foot posture, gait analysis, and your ability to perform some pain provocation tests. In some cases we might also need to order a plain xray of your feet.

How is Hallux Limitus treated?

In many cases of Hallux Limitus, treatment can begin with non-surgical approaches that may include:

  • Custom orthotics to correct your foot posture, improving the alignment and movement of the big toe joint. This not only helps to alleviate pain and swelling but also helps to prevent further damage to the joint.
  • Gentle joint mobilisation exercises that you can do yourself at home to help improve the mobility of the joint.
  • Supportive footwear that provide adequate stability through the arch area and no pressure across the big toe joint. In some cases, a rocker sole may need to be added to the shoe.
  • Stretching and foot strengthening exercises.
  • Keeping your body weight well controlled will help to relieve pressure across the joint
  • Pain medicines (eg. modified release paracetomol) can be helpful in controlling painful symptoms.

What Should I do if I have big toe arthritis?

Without treatment, hallux limitus progressively worsens over time and can cause difficulties walking and participating in exercise activities. In more advanced cases, surgical correction may be required for symptom relief.

If you have symptoms of osteoarthritis in your feet, please contact us.


Foot Health Clinic is a Brisbane kids, family and active adventurers podiatry clinic. We are recognised Foot and Ankle Professionals.


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