One of the more common causes of foot pain, hallux limitus, is a condition that affects your big toe joint, causing inflammation and reduction in movement, not to mention pain.
Given the cost and often long recovery times of surgery, it’s only natural to seek out holistic treatments before going under the knife. While the decision whether or not to pursue surgery should be discussed with your health care provider, holistic treatments can be an effective way to treat pain in the short term and potentially help you avoid surgery.
While many holistic treatments won’t necessarily heal hallux litmus completely, they can be beneficial in reducing your pain and increasing your range of motion.
This article will look at the symptoms and causes of hallux limitus and a few proven holistic treatments you can try.
Symptoms and causes of hallux limitus
In general, hallux limitus is the result of multiple factors rather than one specific cause. As WebMD notes, “There are many things that can cause you to develop hallux limitus in one or both feet. Some are unavoidable, but other causes can be avoided.“
Common causes of hallux limitus
- Poor-fitting footwear: Given that you spend most of your day in your shoes, wearing the ‘wrong’ type of shoes for your specific foot type can lead to misalignment and discomfort. If you’re a regular runner, the type of shoes you wear is especially important. Shoes that match your gait and provide the proper arch support for your foot type are crucial to help reduce injuries and inflammation in general.
- Foot structure: Depending on how your foot is structured, “abnormal” feet can ultimately lead to more stress and pressure when walking or being active, resulting in various aches and pains. Unfortunately, barring surgery, there isn’t much you can do about the structure of your feet.
- Arthritis: Ultimately, hallux limitus is arthritis of your big toe, so those who have suffered from arthritis of other joints might be extra susceptible to hallux limitus. Given that each part of your body works, issues with one area may lead to problems elsewhere.
- High impact sports: The daily wear and tear on your feet from sports can take a toll on your body. If you run, play soccer, or other high-impact sports, for example, you’re at an increased risk of foot pain. Luckily having a consistent recovery routine can help offset these symptoms and keep you at your A-game.
Symptoms of hallux limitus.
If you suffer from hallux limitus, you may find yourself with some or all of the following symptoms.
- Calluses: With hallux limitus, your big toe has a restricted range of motion, which can cause your foot to rub the wrong way leading to calluses.
- Bone spurs: While not always directly related, those with hallux limitus often tend to have bone spurs, which can cause large amounts of pain and discomfort.
- Tingling and numbness: Because your big toe has limited mobility, it’s not uncommon to experience tingling and numbness in your feet. Shoes that provide that proper support for your feet can help reduce the tingling and numbing sensation, as can movement designed to stretch your big toe.
5 Holistic treatments for hallux limitus without surgery
While surgery might ultimately be needed to treat your hallux limitus, there are many alternative treatments you can consider trying first.
- Start hallux limitus treatment early
- Consider custom made insoles
- Experiment with with new footwear designed for hallux limitus
- Try contrast baths
- Exercise your feet
1. Start hallux limitus treatment early
If you’re looking to avoid surgery, it’s critical to begin treatment for hallux limitus as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the chances of needing invasive, and potentially expensive treatment options.
As Laurence Rubin, DPM, FACFAS, a foot and ankle surgeon in Richmond, VA told Foot Health Facts, “If we catch the condition early, we can relieve the symptoms by conservative measures,” says Rubin. “But if it has progressed to the point where the joint is destroyed, we have fewer conservative options.”
If you believe you have hallux limitus, taking action sooner rather than later will help you get the treatment you need before your condition worsens.
2. Consider custom made insoles
One of the more popular and effective treatment options, custom made insoles can be helpful in reducing pain caused by hallux limitus and keep inflammation of your big toe down. If you like your current shoes, custom insoles are a good option to try before investing in new shoes.
Look for insoles that are designed to help alleviate pressure of your metatarsal (toe) joints and restrict the motion of your toes (not just big toe.) The great thing about custom insoles, is they can also be effective in reducing the chances of other conditions of the foot such as general foot pain and even turf toe.
Overtime, custom insoles can potentially help reduce or reverse your hallux limitus completely, depending on the severity. Be sure to take advantage of online retailers return policies to ensure you get the right custom insole for you.
3. Experiment with with new footwear designed for hallux limitus
In addition to investing in custom made insoles, there are many shoes on the market designed specifically for helping treat inflammation of hallux limitus. That said, you may be somewhat limited in options in terms of style.
When looking for shoes designed for hallux limitus, you’ll want to find shoes that provide relief for your big toe and your feet the support they need. As Seth Stinehour at Podiatry Advice explains, “a good shoe for hallux limitus removes the stress on the big toe joint thus reducing the pain.“
Like custom made insoles, shoes designed for hallux limitus, will help limit discomfort of your big toe and ultimately alleviate pressure while walking. Wearing your special shoes as much as possible compared to your regular footwear will help relieve your pain.
The Fitness Tribe, has an excellent list of shoes for hallux limitus spanning running, walking, and dress and casual shoes as well. Again, optimize for comfort over style if you have to choose.
4. Try regular constrast baths
While custom insoles and shoes designed for hallux litmus will likely make the most significant difference in your recovery; incorporating contrast baths regularly can also help relieve inflammation.
Daily contrast baths can help improve the circulation in your feet and provide near-instant relief. Alternate between hot and cold water for 30-45 seconds for several rounds, as many times as you can throughout the week.
For a more convenient relief option, you can apply ice packs to your feet towards the end of your day to help reduce inflammation.
5. Exercise your feet for extra relief
Left unchecked, the limited motion in your big toe from hallux litmus can cause your entire foot to stiffen over time. Making a conscious effort to exercise your feet regularly can help reduce that stiffness and provide long-term relief.
1. Stretch your toes
As Dr. Ragland told Creaky Joints, “Strengthening and stretching your toes can help lessen pain and increase your range of motion. Try toe exercises like picking up a washcloth with your toes, pointing and flexing your feet, and walking barefoot on the sand.”
2. Flex and extend your MTP joint
Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin recommends, “Flexing and extending your MTP joint. Manually flexing and extending your big toe can help improve the range of motion in the joint. You can rest your foot on the opposite knee and carefully use your hands to bend your big toe forwards and back, holding for 30 seconds at the limit of each range of motion.“
3. Ankle rolls, and mobility drills, and toe yoga
PodiumRunner suggests toe yoga, ankle rolls, and various mobility drills to loosen your feet up if you’re looking for even more exercises and stretches to try.
Depending on the severity of your hallux limitus, overdoing it may make your condition worse. Listen to your body! If you find stretching and exercising your toes daily is too much, consider exercising your feet on alternating days.
For most of those suffering from hallux limitus, there are a variety of treatments that you can do before you consider surgery. In addition, using a tool such as The Eclipse can help reduce other symptoms you may face due to your hallux litmus.
Whether you ultimately need surgery or not, investing in your recovery routine can go a long way in helping ensure you stay healthy and ready to take on the day.
As surgeon Laurence Rubin furthered shared with Foot Health facts, “People with this disorder seem to suffer much longer than they need to,” he says. “They’re often pleasantly surprised when they find out their problem can be fixed.”
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