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Surgery Is Not The Only Cure For Those Hammertoes.

By Dr. David Zuckerman, D.P.M.

Take a good look at your toes. Do a couple of them look more like claws or mallets?

If so, you probably have a deformity called hammertoes. Your toes may look odd to you, but don't rush into surgery to straighten hammertoes, unless they are painful and won't fit into shoes.

A tendency toward hammertoes can be genetic. For example, you may have inherited an unusually long second toe whose tip is continually squeezed into a bent position.

Sometimes a tight tendon prevents a toe from resting flat and a hammertoe begins to form. Or a bunion on the big toe may crowd the second toe into a bent position. Muscle weakness or arthritis can also cause toes to contract into the hammer position.

Ill fitting shoes commonly lead to deformed toes, as well as many other foot problems. A short, shallow shoe forces a toe to bend at the joints and bear weight on its tip. After a time, the tendons contract and the toe stiffens into this unnatural position permanently.

BEFORE AND AFTER HAMMER TOE SURGERY

These are before and after hammer toe correction done by in-office minimal
incision surgery. There were no sutures, the patient took no painpills, and
the patient was back to normal activity that day.

 

Your podiatrist can often prevent a hammertoe from becoming ridgid, contorted and painful. If the tendon is still flexible - if you can straighten the toe with your hands - he can use lamb's wool padding or special splints to hold the toe in its natural, straight position. Then, roomier shoes with deeper toe boxes will keep the toes from bunching up again.

Unless hammertoes are treated, the cartilage between the joints wears out and the toes lose flexibility and function. Also, because hammertoes can create an unnatural gait, they often lead to painful back, hip and knee disorders. So seek help when you notice a toe following an unnatural position.

When hammertoes are very painful or impossible to fit into shoes, surgery is the only recourse. At the deformed joints, 1/16th to 1/18th of an inch of bone is removed to allow the connecting toe bones to lie straight.

Up to 60 days of pain and swelling used to follow hammertoe surgery, but today, many podiatric surgeons are specially trained to perform minimal incision surgery, which can be performed in the office, eliminating costly hospitalization.

Pain, if any, is controlled with aspirin, and minimal incision surgery greatly reduces swelling and the possibility of infection. The incision is so small, I use only two stitches to close it.

The patient can walk immediately after surgery and return to work in a day or two, if the job allows sitting much of the time. And if the patient wears roomy, sensible shoes hammertoes almost never return.

This is a reprint from the Pulse Section of the Courier Post.

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David Zuckerman DPM
The Foot Specialist, P.C.
341 S. Evergreen Ave.
Woodbury, NJ 08096

Telephone: (856) 848-3338
Fax: (856) 848-5122