Causes of Mallet Toe & Surgery for Correction

When a toe remains bent in an unnatural position, it causes pain. We call these odd positions of the toes a ‘Mallet Toe’, ‘Hammer Toe’, and ‘Claw Toe’. They occur due to the improper alignment of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the toe. Other than the toe structure, the type of shoes you wear can lead to deformities.

Types of mallet toe deformity:

Hammer toe occurs when the bend in the middle joint of the toe is unnatural. When this abnormality is in the joint near the toenail, it is a mallet toe.

There are two kinds of mallet toe

  • Flexible mallet toe
  • Rigid mallet toe

When the ailment is in its developmental stages, we refer to it as flexible mallet toe. You will still be able to move the joints though they remain affected. There are more symptoms in the second case. The joints become misaligned, the tendons tighten and the joint becomes fixed. When a person has mallet toes they will develop corns or calluses. You see redness and swelling on the joints of the affected toes. If the person is diabetic, then you might see toe ulcers.

Causes of mallet toes

The most common of the mallet toe causes is bone and muscle imbalance. The other reasons include the following:

  • Wearing tight shoes
  • Arthritis
  • Injury to the toe

You can treat a mallet toe both surgically and nonsurgically. Only when the nonsurgical methods do not produce any tangible results, would surgery become a last resort. First, let us look at the nonsurgical methods of treating mallet toes.

  • Rub with pumice stone: If you have calluses, you can rub them with a pumice stone. This will make them thin.
  • Wear big shoes: Make it a point to wear shoes with toe boxes. This will give your toes plenty of room and so you will not experience any pain.
  • Do exercises: Exercise helps to stretch and strengthen the toe muscles. This will ease the pain.
  • Avoid shoes with high heels: People who wear high heels will experience pain.
  • Wear cushions: Put a cushion over the toe so it does not rub and cause pain.
  • Take OTC medicines: You can take Over-The-Counter pain medication such as naproxen, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Surgery for Mallet Toe

If you opt for the surgical option, then you might undergo one of the following:

  • Joint fusion: We call this procedure Arthrodesis. Here your surgeon will remove a part of the joint and let the bones grow together.
  • Arthroplasty: This procedure involves your surgeon removing a part of the toe bone.
  • Amputation: This is rare, but necessary in some cases. Here your surgeon will remove the toe altogether.
  • Toe implant: The use of a toe implant helps to straighten the toe joint or use in the place of a bent joint.
  • Realign the tissues: Cut and move the tendons and ligament in the toe.

Surgery is only needed if the deformity is a serious problem.