What is a functional hallux limitus?
The big toe joint in the foot is an essential joint for normal function and walking or running. While we are moving and the foot is flat on the floor, this big toe or hallux joint has to flex when the heel come up off the floor. If this joint will not bend then walking or running will probably be much more difficult. Extra energy is required so walking gets very tireing. When the motion which is not able to occur with the great toe joint still is required to happen, other joints are generally made to move more at a time that they are not meant to be moving. This unnatural motion can become painful.
You can find a number of problems that might go wrong with that great toe joint and interfere with that normal function. One of the most common issues is a condition that usually gets identified as hallux rigidus and as this name signifies, the big toe joint is stiff and doesn't flex. The most common cause of this is osteoarthritis of that hallux joint. This can be quite painful and the rigid big toe joint can make walking or running very difficult. The most widespread handling of this are drug treatments for pain relief, rocker sole footwear to encourage some movement to occur along with surgical procedures around the joint.
A less painful form of hallux rigidus is a condition known as hallux limitus in which the hallux joint is not stiff however has a reduced range of flexion. As a full range of movement is necessary at the great toe or hallux joint for normal function, this restricted motion is still a problem. The commonest cause of this condition is also osteoarthritis. Usually the management of hallux limitus is pain relief with drugs, from time to time taping can be used to restrict motion even more so that it is not too painful. Foot orthoses are sometimes used to encourage a more normal movement of the great toe joint. With the most painful situations surgical treatment is definitely an option where a joint replacements could be undertaken or the great toe joint is operatively fused to end it moving.
One more very common problem is what is called a functional hallux limitus. This is called functional because on a non-weightbearing examination the hallux joint has a normal range of flexion, but when functioning with the feet on the floor it just does not have the full range of flexion. The reason behind a functional hallux limitus is simply not known and the explanation why that big toe or hallux joint does not work only when weightbearing is not really obvious. This simply appears to occurs in some individuals. A number of possibilities have been proposed, many of which seem credible however, there is no direct evidence for one over the other.
There are a variety of treatment options for a functional hallux limitus that are aimed at restoring normal biomechanics to the great toe joint. Foot doctors commonly use foot supports with assorted modifications for instance a first ray cut out, the Kinetic Wedge or a Cluffy Wedge. Many of these designs try to increase the motion at the big toe or hallux joint to make the joint move more effectively and prevent the functional hallux limitus from occurring.