Sharp Pain in Big Toe – Causes and Treatment

Our feet are incredible. They consist of carefully designed muscles, tiny bones, joints and tissues, structured and organized in a way allowing us to perform various movement tasks.

Feet carry the full weight of our body and force us to stand upright. Feet let us do various activities, important for normal functioning of our overall body; thanks to feet we walk, run, jump and so on. Any foot injury or problem will most certainly affect the whole organism. It may seem pain in the foot is nothing more than that, but in many cases, it proves to be a sign of a more complex problem.

Feet are the base of our body; they endure efforts we undertake every day. Listen carefully what your feet are trying to tell you, in order to keep them in good condition and discover if there is any other health issue you might need to take care of.

Big toe pain

Big toes and big toe joints are relatively common victims of an average active person’s life. There are various reasons why the pain occurs in big toe; it is usually sharp and strong type of pain, which causes a patient an actual discomfort and disturb their normal routine, affecting their regular physical activity habits and mood.

In some cases, big toe pain is associated with other health issues and diseases, in other, it could be an injury consequence or other. Some of the causes are quite common and occur in overall population, no matter on patient’s age, gender or living routine. Other causes are rare and occur in specific cases.

Common big toe pain causes

As we’ve said before, there are numerous factors that could affect your big toe and cause you sharp pain. The pain usually occurs  at the big toe joint. This joint is called the first metatarsophalangeal joint and in connects the big toe with the first metatarsal bone.

Company of the two is inevitable for normal foot functioning. Logically, our overall feet functions and movement depend on this connection. Being so important for our feet, big toe joint is exposed to serious pressure. Normally, it is designed to endure it, but there are different factors that could make it more sensitive, damage it or irritate it in another way.

The pain you might experience is truly unpleasant. In most of the cases, the pain is more or less severe and it causes the patient feels miserable and, depending on a particular cause and intensity, disrupt their normal functioning. Let us first check what may cause you sharp pain in big toe. Later on, we will see what could you do to manage and relieve the pain.

Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis is a common cause of foot pain. It affects different joints in a person’s body and is an undesirable accompanist of older people. This condition affects all toes, not just the big toe. However, the pain is usually the sharpest and stringers in the big one, since big toe joint endures the most of the weight stress. Besides pain, it can cause stiffness in joints and toes. This condition causes the cartilage lining the metatarsophalangeal joint to get damaged and much more sensitive to regular foot movement and bending the big toe as we walk. The bending additionally puts stress on an already damaged joint and causes sharp pain and stiffness. Toe arthritis may lead to the condition known as hallux rigidus or bunions. It could also occur as a consequence of gout or foot injury.

Hallux rigidus – Hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis occurring in feet. Big toe joint and the toe itself get very stiff and painful. Sharp pain in big toe is a common symptom of the condition. In the most cases, there is no precise cause why arthritis occurs; it could be explained by overuse of the toe or some structural anomalies in foot. The pain is sharp and commonly gets worse after long walks or standing for too much time.

Gout – Gout is an extremely discomforting condition, with symptoms that are hard to ignore. It is also a common cause of big toe pain, although it may affect all other toes as well. Throughout human history, gout has been known as a disease of the royal, since its development is associated with excessive intake of alcohol and food. Gout occurs when there are high levels of uric acid in a patient’s bloodstream. It doesn’t necessarily means a person would suffer from gout, but it is a great risk. Gout causes sharp pain, swelling, redness and an extreme sensitivity of big toe and its joint. The pain could be severe and completely disrupt an individual’s life.

Bunions – Bunions are also known to cause big toe pain. They usually occur because of wearing too tight shoes.  They are associated with the foot condition hallux valgus. Inappropriate shoes disrupt normal food biomechanics, causing big toe to gradually shift its position over time, moving inward and over other toes. The result appears in the form of red and irritated bump on the outer side of metatarsophalangeal joint. The condition is commonly accompanied by sharp pain in big toe and its base, the joint itself. While in most of the cases, it occurs due to bad shoes, it could also appear as rheumatoid arthritis degeneration.

Sesamoiditis – Sesamoidits is an inflammation of the two small sesamoid bones. They are located below the metatarsophalangeal joint. Sesamoid bones are important for normal flexing of the big toe. They could get inflamed or damaged due to acute or chronic injuries; repetitive actions like jumping or toe balancing are the most likely to cause painful sensation. As the bones are tiny and located just below the big toe joint, sharp pain spreads within the big toe and the joint.

Big toe pain relief and treatment

The exact method of treating pain in big toe or toes mainly depends on the exacts cause. Each of causes could be managed some way, depending on the severity of the pain and the type or level of degeneration. Usually, a doctor would prescribe medication for pain relief, which is intended to reduce the inflammation and lower the severity of pain. Depending on the severity of the case, treatment options can be non-surgical and surgical.

If the pain is moderate or even severe, you could feel relief by wearing wider, orthotic and comfortable shoes, which will reduce the pressure on your feet and toes and allow the pained big toe to comfortably ‘breathe’ inside the shoe. The procedure commonly used by athletes, called RICE method, is also known to help. It is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.  A doctor may also prescribe you specific medications for pain and inflammation relief or corticosteroid injections. Stretching exercise and physical therapy are also good options.

Different causes call for different treatment options. Gout patients usually need to change their eating habits and get put to a specific dietary regime, in order to reduce the symptoms. Complex and long-term neglected bunions may need to get managed by surgical procedure. Therefore, there is no certain way to deal with big toe pain in general; it is vital to determine the cause.

How to prevent and relieve the pain myself?

The first step to prevent big toe pain is to choose shoes that are comfortable and appropriate for your feet. Toe parts of shoes should be wide enough for your toes to get normally moved, without circulation issues. Shoes must be well balanced and supportive. Eat well and drink a lot of fluids; this may save you from gout and severe big toe pain that commonly accompanies this discomforting condition.

Exercise your feet regularly. Search for specific stretching exercises for big toe joints. Regular exercising of your ankles, feet and lower legs will help you maintain your muscles strong and thus prevent some causes of big toes pain that may occur due to weakness of your feet and overuse. Just as they need exercise, your feet also need rest. Try not to walk, run or perform other stressful activities for long periods without breaks. Rest your feet regularly, elevate them to bring your blood floow into balance, practice relaxing feet baths and massages.