Meet Hammertoes and Their Friends the Claw Toes

These are both deformities of the toes; they just affect different joints.  Let's read on:claw toes

The Basics

Each toe has six muscles and each one stabilizes a particular area of the toe; top, sides, and bottom.  The function of each muscle relies on the condition of the rest of the foot.  For example, when dealing with a flat foot, the foot is now longer than it should be, and tension on muscles of the toes is increased.  Larger muscles will dominate the smaller ones.

So, if the muscle that attaches to the middle phalanges is contracting first (the flexor digitorum brevis), it is a claw toe.  If the muscle that controls the end of the toe (the flexor digitorum longus muscle), then 2 joints are pulling up, which is a hammertoe.

There is more detailed information here:hammertoe

Causes

Occuring much more often in women, both conditions are usually caused by a mechanical imbalance such as flat feet(pes planus). 

There are also serious conditions that may play a role and they would need to be ruled out  as the cause, including diabetes, autoimmune disordes like psoriasis and arthritis, and neuromuscular disorders like M.S., C.P., and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

Treatment

The earlier, the better.  Early adaptation to orthotics can prevent further problems if begun when the first evidence of claw toes or hammertoes is noted.  smile

Left untreated, these conditions will progress.  The soft tissues tighten adhesions develop, and eventually the deformity becomes 'rigid'.

The results of surgery vary on the severity of the deformity and the health and compliance of the patient.  This means if your friend had to have 3 surgical corrections, it has nothing to do with how things will go in your case. 

Your podiatrist will perform either an arthroplasty, which means trimming the head of the proximal phalanx to allow the toe to become straight.  It may take a series of procedures to get the toe optimally straight.

An arthrodesis is the removal of cartiage between two phalanges and fusing them together.