Condition spotlight

Hallux Limitus

Hallux limitus and rigidus refer to a form of degenerative arthritis causing stiffness at the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe. The big toe joint is primarily responsible for the propulsion (push-off) of the foot during the gait cycle and dysfunction of this joint can impact on the ability to walk and balance.

In the early stages, when motion of the big toe is only somewhat limited, this condition is referred to as hallux limitus. As degeneration and damage to the joint continues, the joint range of motion reduces further, making it harder to bend the toe. Once there is a complete loss of motion, it is referred to as a hallux rigidus.

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hallux limitus
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Frequently asked questions about Hallux Limitus

What is the difference between functional and structural hallux limitus?

Functional hallux limitus is a precursor to structural hallux limitus, referring to impaired functional movement of the first metatarsophalangeal joint. This means that extension of the big toe is restricted while weight bearing, however, while seated or non-weight bearing the toe is able to move freely within a normal range. Structural hallux limitus refers to the joint range of motion being restricted in both weight bearing and non-weight bearing positions, due to a physical block in the joint (ie. arthritic change or bony spurring).

Can I regain movement in my big toe?

Once degeneration of the cartilage has occurred, the joint changes are irreversible. Functional hallux limitus and mild/moderate structural hallux limitus are able to be treated successfully with conservative measures to protect the joint and slow the progression of disease… and of course, reduce symptoms!

Is hallux limitus / rigidus the same as a bunion?

While the two conditions may look similar, they are quite different in terms of the way they develop. Bunions are the result of an inward rotation of the first metatarsal, forming a bony prominence on the inside of the big toe joint, whereas hallux limitus or rigidus develops a bump on the dorsal surface (top) of the joint. Both can result in stiffness of the big toe joint.

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