Why Am I Having Pain in the Joint of My Big Toe?


Why Am I Having Pain in the Joint of My Big Toe?

So you are having pain in the joint of your big toe, and you want to know why. Especially if the pain is stopping you from doing activities you love.

Let's talk about some of the possible causes of big toe joint pain here today. Luckily, some of the causes or conditions that may be causing this pain are simple to treat.

What is the MTP Joint?


The MTP joint is an acronym for "metatarsophalangeal joint”. Why is it important? It is crucial for the toe to bend. When we run, we push off of this point of our foot, so you can see how important this joint is.

When we have a problem with this MTP joint, our mobility will suffer. Even walking can be problematic. Pain and swelling are a common result of a condition that affects the MTP joint. This can cause pain in the big toe area.

Pain in the big toe joint due to trauma or injuries


As we well know, a trauma to the joint can result in pain. We've all stubbed our toe at some time, or dropped something heavy upon the foot.

If you've suffered some type of trauma to the foot, and you are having pain in the joint of your big toe, pay attention. Especially if the pain doesn't seem to be getting better with rest & icing.

Although the injury is likely to heal eventually, it is still a good idea to get it checked out if the pain doesn’t get better within 3-5 days of the injury.

Other types of trauma/injuries that could be causing the pain:

  • Turf Toe (when the toe suffers repetitive, excessive force while bent)

  • Overuse resulting in stress fractures (small crack in the bone)

  • Sprains (stretched or torn ligaments)

Each of these injuries can result in pain in the joint of your big toe.

Pain in the Big Toe Due to Osteoarthritis


We've talked about osteoarthritis recently on this blog, but it bears repeating. It's a condition that can manifest in many parts of the body, and the foot is no exception.

When the cartilage of the big toe begins to erode or degrade due to wear and tear, bones become exposed. The resulting friction can result in:

  • Pain

  • Inflammation

  • Difficulty walking

Bone Spurs & Hallux Rigidus


A bone spur is a bony projection that can occur in the foot. When bone spurs and osteoarthritis happen at the same time, something called hallux rigidus can develop. You can probably use your latin skills to decipher what this really means. Basically, moving your big toe becomes difficult.

Pain in the Big Toe Joint Due to Bunions


Ah, bunions, a favorite topic on this blog. Bunions usually occur when a person wears ill-fitting footwear for an extended period. A bony lump may occur aside the MTP joint, in this case. Bunions can cause pain and mobility problems, including a loss of flexibility and stiffness.

Wear the right shoes, people! It’ll help you avoid bunions.

Pain in the Big Toe Joint Due to Gout

Our bodies produce something called uric acid. In some cases, this acid is produced at levels that are excessive. It may build up and form small, crystalized deposits in the joints.

These deposits create a specialized form of arthritis called Gout. Gout can lead to inflammation and a lumpy, swollen effect in the feet.

Pain in the Big Toe Joint due to Sesamoiditis

When the "sesamoid" bones become inflamed, they can cause swelling and pain in the big toe joint.

When Should You See a Doctor for Big Toe Joint Pain?


Some of the conditions we mentioned may get better with immediate rest. In that case, don't worry about seeing a doctor. This is especially true for things such as mild sprains.

A common recommendation is to visit a doctor after 3-5 days if the pain is not getting better.

How do we Diagnose and Treat Pain in the Big Toe Joint

One of our first tasks is to determine what is causing the pain is so we can treat it. Diagnosis may include the following:

  • Administering a flexibility test

  • Looking for evidence of bone spurs around the joint

  • Looking for tenderness or swollen areas

  • Administering an X-ray

  • Requesting further tests (blood tests, etc.) if necessary

Treatment and relief

Of course, the treatment you receive depend upon what the problem is. We have a few different tools at our disposal, which we can recommend to help ease the pain. They include:

  • Prescribing a NSAID (anti-inflammatory) to relieve pain

  • Suggesting footwear changes such as shoes with extra room in the toes

  • Recommending more rest for the effected area

  • Recommend a program of weight loss to help ease the pressure upon the effected area

  • Recommending a physical therapy plan

  • Recommending surgery in some cases (advanced bunions, joint damage

Big Toe Pain Can Be Effectively Dealt With!


In conclusion, pain in your big toe joint can be bothersome, but is often easy to treat.

Changing your footwear. Adjusting your exercise habits to reduce pressure upon the joint. And losing weight! These are all common, effective ways to deal with this problem.

In some cases, advanced treatment or even surgery may be necessary. If you feel like your big toe joint pain is getting worse, make sure to speak to your specialist immediately. They'll know how to treat your unique case.

Good luck!

Dr. JP Elton