Hammertoe is a painful condition where the toe becomes bent at the joint and then is stuck in that position so that you are unable to properly straighten the toe out. Much of the pain affects the bent toe, although there can be further pain throughout the foot due to the tightened ligaments. Many sufferers also experience heel or arch pain because the hammertoe causes them to change their walking gait. Many hammertoe sufferers depend on painkillers to deal with their condition, but there are treatment options that are a better choice than longterm pain medication management.
Sometimes no treatment is necessary, you just need the right shoe. An orthotic insert that is custom made for your foot can help alleviate the rubbing and pressure that is caused by hammertoe. For mild cases where there is minimal damage to the toe and surrounding tissue, the use of these orthotics is often enough to relieve most of the pain and discomfort without any need for medication.
Hammertoes can sometimes be straightened if the condition is caught early. Your podiatrist will splint and wrap the toe in the correct, relaxed position. Over time, the ligament may loosen sufficiently so that the hammer toe remains flattened on its own. There can be some initial discomfort with this method, but it can usually be treated with over-the-counter pain reducers.
Sometimes physical therapy can help loosen the ligament and help you regain the range of motion in the toe. A physical therapist or your podiatrist will perform range of motion exercises with the toe and foot, as well as provide you with instructions on exercises to regularly at home. They may also use massage to help loosen the ligaments and straighten the toe. Physical therapy works as well as you allow it -- don't miss sessions and do the home exercises to experience the greatest recovery.
If pain and inflammation is exceptionally bad, then cortisone injection treatments may be necessary. Your podiatrists will inject cortisone into the inflamed toe, which will bring down the swelling sufficiently so that other treatments can be pursued, such as physical therapy. The cortisone also reduces the pain from inflammation so that you won't need to take pain killers.
In severe cases, surgery may be the best option. Surgery techniques vary for hammertoe, but a common method is to shave down the toe joint so that the toe can once again move freely.
Contact a foot doctor for more help.