Hammer two refers to a toe deformity wherein the toe is bent at the middle joint, thus resembling a hammer. It commonly affects in the toe beside the big toe (second toe) but may also occur in the third and fourth toes. Hammer toe occurs when the toe is forced into a bent position moving into a claw-like position. The muscles work in pairs to straighten and bend the toes. When the muscles are help in a particular position too long, the muscles will tighten and will be incapable of stretching out.
Not all cases of hammer toe will require surgery. In its early stages, hammer toe can be fixed with corrective measures. This is called flexible hammer toe, when the toe is still movable at the joint. However, if left untreated, it may worsen and become difficult to treat because it has become too rigid. Rigid hammer toes may require surgery.A hammer toe is not to be confused with a mallet toe where the bending occurs in the last joint.
Causes of Hammer Toe
The following causes lead to forcing the toe into a bent position, leading to causing the muscles and tendons in the toe to tighten and become shorter.
- Wearing short, narrow shoes that are too tight to the feet or high heels
- Toe injury
- Tightened ligaments
- Nerve injuries and disorders
- In some cases, hereditary or may progress over time (especially flat-flooted or high arched feet)
Risk Factors for Hammer Toe
Certain risk factors are known to increase a person’s chances of developing hammer toe. These risk factors include:
- Wearing high heels
- Poorly fitted shoes
- Second toe is longer than the big toe
- Family history
- Having calluses, corns or bunions
Symptoms of Hammer Toe
The deformity is usually obvious enough for the eye to notice. The generally accompanying symptoms of hammer toe are the following:
- Bent middle joint of the toe
- Claw-like deformity on the end part of the toe
- Pain in the toes and feet that worsens when rubbed against the shoe
- Difficulty moving toes, which may result to calluses and corns
- Difficult finding shoes to wear
First Aid Management for Hammer Toe
Seek medical advice in cases of hammer toe as necessary corrective measures may be prescribed by the doctor, or in worse cases, surgery may be required. While waiting for doctor’s appointment, the following procedure can be done to relieve pain symptoms and discomfort from hammer toe.
- Avoid wearing poorly fitted shoes and high heels. Wear proper footwear with low heels and just enough space in the toes. If possible, wear slippers.
- Apply a splint on the affected toe.
- Shoe pads or shoe inserts may be prescribed to reduce pain.
- Avoid using over-the-counter corn-removal products that contain uric acid to avoid skin infections. Do not attempt to remove corns as this may lead to wounds.
Disclaimer: The article is for general information and should not be a substitute for medical diagnosis or advice. Enrol in First Aid Courses to learn more about hammer toes and application of first aid in other body deformities requiring emergency care.