Relieve Pain in Your Big Toe


You don’t realize how important your big toe is until you are suffering from the pain of toe arthritis.

Toe arthritis is caused by inflammation in your toe joint and is most often found in the big toe. Toe arthritis can be caused by a loss of joint cartilage (osteoarthritis) or from a past trauma such as a broken or sprained toe. Symptoms of toe arthritis include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Clicking and grinding noises in your toe joint
  • Locked joint
  • Sense of warmth in toe
  • Difficulty walking

If you are suffering from toe arthritis, there are several treatment options available that can help relieve your toe pain—toe fusion or toe cartilage replacement.

Dr. Nicholas T. Gates, an Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Specialist at OrthoCincy Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine who practices at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, specializes in the reconstruction of the foot and ankle.

Dr. Gates specializes in using innovative approaches, such as cartilage replacement, to relieve foot and ankle pain. He explains who may benefit from a toe cartilage replacement, “Anyone suffering from a loss of cartilage in their toe joint can benefit. I see two types of patients—the middle age person that is suffering from osteoarthritis and the athlete or former athlete that has suffered damage to the toe at some point in life.”

Benefits of a Cartilage Replacement vs. Toe Fusion to Stop Arthritis Pain

“Fusion of the toe will lock the toe bones together permanent. It is still a good solution for some patients, but a cartilage replacement can relieve the pain and provide a more normal motion to the toe after healing,” said Dr. Gates. “And if for some reason the cartilage replacement doesn’t provide the needed relief, fusion is still an option.”

When you get have toe cartilage replacement surgery, the surgeon will make an incision in your toe and resurface the bone to make room for the artificial cartilage in your toe joint.

“We insert a small implant made of a material similar to a contact lens,” explains Dr. Gates. “The implant or artificial cartilage will then provide a smooth, cushioning surface in your toe joint.”

Benefits of a cartilage replacement vs. toe fusion include:

  • Reduced pain
  • Improvement of movement and range of motion
  • Return to activities
  • Quicker recovery

The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and you are up and walking the day of the surgery. Typically, you will return to your day to day activities (without crutches) within a few days and you may return to the golf course in 4-5 weeks, or running within a few months of surgery.

Dr. Gates says, “This procedure has only been available for a year. It is a good option for most patients suffering from toe arthritis because you can return to normal motion and function after the surgery.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our affiliated orthopaedic surgeons at OrthoCincy Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, please call 859-301-2663 (BONE).