| Causes | Treatment | Diagnosis | Prevention | Contacting A Podiatrist | Summary |

When your big toe joint hurts, it can be extremely frustrating. The pain can range from slight to severe.
It can be a sharp pain or a dull ache. Sometimes it can be hard to move your toe or move your foot.
Making everyday activities such as walking, more challenging.
People may experience pain within the big toe joint as a result of
many common health problems, including arthritis, injuries, and bunions.
The metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint attaches the big toe to the foot.
This joint plays a vital role in supporting the foot and the whole body. Serves as the propulsor vessel allowing the toe to bend up and down.
The purpose of the big toe joint is to allow the toe to bend and extend, just like the other joints in the body.
It helps propel a person forward by acting as a push-off point when they walk.
Conditions that affect the MTP joint can cause pain and swelling around the big toe.
These conditions include arthritis, bursitis, bunions, and stress fractures, among others.
This article discusses a Podiatrists (foot specialists) view of some common causes of pain at the big toe joint and how to treat them.

Hallux Rigidus (Arthritis of the big toe joint)

Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage within a joint. When it happens in the big toe joint it is referred to as Hallux Rigidus. 
It is the most common form of arthritis in the big toe affecting millions of people around the world.
Common symptoms include:
  • pain
  • stiffness
  • swelling
  • decreased range of motion
Due to the degeneration of cartilage in the joint, causing the bones to rub together.
The body’s response to this is generally to develop bone spurs
which cause an inflammation response adding to the pain and stiffness factors.
The first signs of hallux rigidus are often subtle, such as a mild ache or pain when the big toe is bent or extended. As the disease progresses, the pain becomes more intense, and the toe becomes more difficult to move. In some cases, the pain is so intense that it causes the person to limp. The joints of the foot also become increasingly difficult to move, which makes it difficult to walk, run, and perform other common physical activities.


Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood. The crystals form when the body tries to process the excess amount of uric acid, but is unable to clear it from the blood fast enough. The crystals form in the joints and tissues of the body, causing intense joint and tissue pain.
The first signs of gout are usually mild, such as a dull ache or pain in the big toe when it is bent or extended.
Gout symptoms vary from person to person, but they often include painful attacks that come and go.
These attacks of sharp pain may begin while you are sleeping.
You may experience severe pain when anything touches the foot. The joints of the big toe may be painful, swollen, red, and warm.

Gout Treatment

Gout treatment is mainly based on the principle of controlling the level of uric acid in the blood. This may be achieved by controlling the intake of purine-rich foods such as meat and fish, keeping adequately hydrated, and avoiding alcohol.
A doctor will typically recommend prescription medications to treat gout. This may include treatments to reduce inflammation in the affected joints and drugs to help regulate uric acid levels.

Injury or Trauma to the big toe joint

Toe injuries, such as sprains and fractures, can cause pain and swelling at the toe joint.
A sprain is a tear in the ligament that connects bone to bone.
A fracture is a crack in the bone. Both may cause pain when you try to move your toe. There is generally little to no pain if you don’t move your toe or put weight on it by standing or walking. 
Fractures can come along with bruising in the area extending beyond the toe joint to nearby parts of the foot.

Turf toe

Turf toe is common in sports such as soccer and football. It occurs when you land awkwardly on your toe while playing soccer or football. The toe may be bent or twisted, which may cause pain when you try to move it. The joint may also be swollen and warm to the touch.

Stress Fracture

A stress fracture also known as a hairline fracture is a crack in the bone. It may be caused by overuse or by a sudden injury. The toe may be painful when you try to move it. There is generally little to no pain if you don’t move your toe or put weight on it by standing or walking.


A bunion is a layman’s term for Hallux Valgus deformity. A condition where your big toe bends in towards your other toes.
This is because a bunion results from inflammation in the joint, which becomes aggravated when you bend your big toe while walking.
The symptoms of this condition include a clicking, or popping sensation when you move your toe.
Your toe may also become sore and feel swollen.
The cause of hallux valgus is thought to be related to the alignment of your arches.
For more on bunion treatment click here


Sesamoiditis is an inflammation of the sesamoid bones, which are small bones located near the base of the big toe.

Sesamoiditis is most commonly caused by an injury to the joint surface of the sesamoid bones.

The most common cause of sesamoiditis is overuse or trauma to the joint.

Sesamoiditis can also occur as a result of infection or inflammation of the joint capsule around the sesamoid bones.

Treatments for your big-toe joint pain

Treatment for pain in your big toe joint depends on the cause and severity of the pain.
If the pain is new and due to a mild injury, you can treat the pain at home using the following remedies: cold packs, rest, and wearing good supportive shoes.

If the pain is chronic and has been bothering you for some time. You should see a podiatrist who will be able to provide you with a diagnosis and a treatment to relieve your pain and ensure that it does not return.