NYC Foot Doctors Discuss Causes of Big Toe Pain and Treatment Options

Big toe pain is a big problem in New York City. The big toe’s function is to provide leverage to the foot during the push-off phase of the gait cycle. Along with the little toe, the health of the big toe is essential in maintaining balance while you stand. It is impossible to walk without a limp if your big toe hurts, and most people with big toe pain cannot run or even stand for long periods of time. There are many different issues associated with big toe discomfort, according to the best foot doctors in NYC at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

How Serious Is Big Toe Pain?

Do not delay in seeking treatment if your big toe is hurting; after all, pain is your body’s warning signal that trouble is brewing. We offer many non-invasive treatments to take the edge off immediately. At a minimum, big toe pain stems from an obvious injury—such as stubbing the toe and activating a bundle of pain receptors or digging your toe into the turf, causing tiny tears in the ligament. At worst, you could have an underlying structural deformity, disease, or a vascular issue that could worsen, require amputation, or become life-threatening.

Big Toe Warning Signs

Look out for…

  • Swelling, bruising, AND pain: There is a good chance a traumatic injury has occurred.
  • Sudden onset of swelling, redness, and excruciating pain: You may be having a gout attack.
  • Pain and swelling, but no bruising: You may have an overuse injury.
  • Stiffness, burning, or throbbing: You may have arthritis pain.
  • A big lump: It could be a ganglion cyst, neuroma, lipoma, fibromatosis, a bunion, or (rarely) a bone tumor.
  • Sudden discoloration or coldness: There may be a circulation issue like a blood clot or arterial blockage.
  • Nail pain accompanied by drainage, redness, and swelling: You may have an infected ingrown nail.

Seeing a foot and ankle specialist in the early stages of pain can help you get the correct diagnosis from the start to reduce your chances of progression, surgical intervention, and unnecessary complications.

Diagnosing Big Toe Pain

Pain and swelling generally appear together when a patient complains of problems with the big toe. Other symptoms may include redness, discoloration, burning, warmth, bruising, stiffness, numbness, and nail pain. Sometimes there is pain even with rest, or the pain is most acutely felt in the morning. Patients may have difficulty wearing their favorite shoes. Keep in mind that the feeling of physical pain can vary greatly from person to person; it can be sharp or a dull ache, shooting like electrical pulses, or a burning warmth.

NYC foot doctors at The Center For Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine may be able to tell what’s wrong simply by conducting a basic physical examination and asking you a few questions about your symptoms, recent activities, diet, and medical history. Other times, we may request a urine or blood sample to rule out conditions like infection or gout. Biopsies and cultures can be tested to look for specific pathogens or diseases. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can be used to rule out bone and tissue damage. Accurate diagnosis is of utmost importance to our foot specialists, so we have all the diagnostic tools we need right here.

Why Does My Big Toe Hurt?

The most common causes of big toe pain we treat are:

  • Arthritis: Wear-and-tear or an immune system disorder causes degradation of cartilage, stiffness, inflammation, and debilitating pain.
  • Blue toe syndrome: Blood vessel damage causes reduced blood and oxygen flow to the toe, causing changes in color and sudden pain.
  • Bunions: A combination of heredity and ill-fitting shoes causes the big toe joint to drift out of alignment.
  • Capsulitis: Stress and improper footwear cause the fluid-filled sac surrounding the toe joint to inflame.
  • Diabetes: Blood vessel damage can cause pain, deformity, and sensitivity changes in the toe joint.
  • Fractures: Broken bones in the big toe can occur if a heavy object is dropped on the toe, the toe is stubbed with significant force against a hard object, or from overuse during sports activity.
  • Gout: An excessive amount of uric acid build-up in the body causes the formation of urate crystals in the blood, which pools in the toe joint, causing excruciating pain, inflammation, redness, and tenderness.
  • Ingrown toenail: Injury, improper clipping technique, or heredity causes the nail to grow into the flesh rather than upward and outward.
  • Sesamoiditis: Inflammation of the two bones beneath the toe occur with sports that involve a lot of toe work and jumping (like dancing) or with a lot of high heel wearing.
  • Tennis toe: Repeat damage from hard stops while running causes blood to accumulate beneath the nail, causing a throbbing pain and discoloration beneath the nail.
  • Turf toe: Hyperextension as the toe bends too far backward causes strain and damage in the ligaments, which is accompanied by pain along the bottom of the foot, inflammation, and tenderness. 

Treatment for Toe Pain in NYC

Naturally, your treatment will depend upon your diagnosis. Most conditions can benefit from PRICE treatment (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Your prescription could be as minimal as easy at-home therapies, over-the-counter ibuprofen, careful monitoring for signs of progression, and stretching. In some cases, a change in footwear and custom orthotics can help.

In the office, we offer a number of advanced pain therapies beyond the typical cortisone shot. Advanced injection therapies include biopuncture, platelet rich plasma, and stem cells. Pain lasers, cryotherapy tools, ultrasonic debridement, ultrasound therapy, and shockwave therapy can all be used to trigger natural healing mechanisms in an area that typically features reduced circulation (and, as a result, slower healing).

We can refer you to another specialist to help with the treatment of vascular issues or complex disease like diabetes. We can prescribe you medication to treat a number of conditions or antibiotics/antifungals for infections. Dietary changes are necessary for the management of gout. Some conditions—such as bunions—can only be completely healed through surgery. Our team of board-certified podiatric surgeons brings the most up-to-date techniques, methods, tools, and training to the operating room. Those same doctors guide you through rehabilitation, so you won’t need to visit a different facility to recover. Contact us for the best big toe pain treatment NYC has to offer.

Source: Dr. Geldwert | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

4 thoughts on “NYC Foot Doctors Discuss Causes of Big Toe Pain and Treatment Options”

    1. Hi Pamela, thank you for your feedback. This article focused on internal foot health rather than skin diseases and infections. Good point though, those two can definitely be issues, thanks for commenting!

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