There are many reasons why our toes (especially the big toe) can get sore. Here are some common reasons:
Gout / Osteo-arthritis / Rheumatoid Pain
Gout is an inflammatory joint form of arthritis that comes on suddenly and can be severely painful. Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood (Uric acid is produced when the body breaksdown purines which are found in certain foods like poultry, seafood and alcohol).
Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of the big toe joint, reducing range of motion which causes stiffening, swelling and pain. This is usually caused by poor walking/running biomechanics and a jamming of the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune form which occurs when the body attacks its own joint tissue by mistaking itself for foreign pathogens. This causes cartilage loss and joint pain, instability and deformity.
Toe Pain / Stress Fracture/ Metatarsalgia
Morton neuroma (thickened nerve) is when the tissue of the nerve gets irritated, compressed or damaged and thickens where it sits in the ball of the foot. This causes burning, tingling, numbness or shooting pain in the ball of the foot and to the toes.
A stress fracture is caused by overuse when the bone is constantly under extraordinary stress. When enough stress is placed on the bone, it cracks. This can be due to muscle fatigues, imbalance or poor biomechanics, as muscles become irritated or tired, they stop absorbing shock and transfer all forces to the bones.
Bunion / Big toe joint Pain
Bunions are the bump (prominence) that results from the bones misalignment to the big toe joint and when the bursa (joint fluid cushion) gets irritated. The more angled the joint becomes, the more prominent the bump becomes, usually caused by poor walking/running biomechanics, poor balance and badly fitting footwear.
Turf toe is an injury that results from an over-extension of the big toe joint. It is usually caused by a direct injury that jams the joint (which often damages the cartilage underneath) with a popping sensation or from repetitive movements. There is pain when pressure is applied to the big toe, swelling, limited joint movements and an inability to “push off” are the most common symptoms.
When the two small bones under the big toe (sesamoids) become irritated, imbalanced, or fractured (sesamoiditis). These act like pulleys, helping with reducing body weight stresses and allowing the tendons to slide and transfer force from your lower leg muscles to the end of the big toe. Sesamoid bones, like the other bones in your body can break, and the tendons that pass over these structures can cause soft tissue irritation and inflammation.
Hammer / Claw / Mallet toes
Hammer and claw toes are often caused by poor toe/biomechanics. The toes cope by bending into odd positions at either of the little toe joints. The joints become thickened and are prone to arthritis, corns and callous.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT Toe and Bunion pain?
Treatment involves a variety of methods based on your activity, biomechanics, whether it come on quickly or gradually and what the root cause is. Here are some treatment modalities that are used to treat toe problems.