Pain At Big Toe Joint: Everything You Need To Know

Pain At Big Toe Joint: Everything You Need To Know

Unfortunately, many people in this world experience pain in their big toe joint and don't know why. This article aims to provide you with information for possible causes for experiencing pain at your big toe joint.

Pain can make your daily routine difficult to accomplish, including simple things such as walking or doing your household chores very challenging.

The joint which attaches the big toe to the foot is called your meta-tarsal phalangeal joint parentheses capital MTP parentheses. This is an essential joint that supports your body and allows your toe to bend up and down. This joint helps propel a person forward by behaving as a push-off point when they run or walk.

When pain occurs at this joint, this can limit a person's movement in that area and affect a person's ability to walk. Various conditions affect the MTP joint and cause pain and swelling around the big toe.

This article focuses on providing you with as much information as possible for possible causes that cause pain in your big toe.

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Possible causes of pain occurring at the big toe joint include:


Gout occurs when uric acid crystallizes in the joints. Uric acid is a waste product that your body passes through the kidneys and out of the body as urine.

If someone has high uric acid levels, this can lead to crystallization and formation of small deposits. When this occurs in the joints, this causes pain.

Usually, the first symptoms of gout occur in the big toe. This results in severe episodes of swelling and sharp pain.

There's a possibility that gout could spread to other parts of the body. It does, after some time, can cause lumps to form under the skin in areas that are affected.


Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis, and it occurs when the cartilage wears down at the joints.

Once osteoarthritis occurs in the foot, it affects the MTP joint most of the time, which is at the base of the big toe.

As time passes, osteoarthritis in the big toe will result in the cartilage to wear down and then the bones to rub against each other. This friction is what results in inflammation and pain, which makes walking very challenging.

Also, bony projections that are called bone spurs can develop. These bone spurs and osteoarthritis combined cause hallux rigidus in the big toe; this refers to the point when the movement of the big toe becomes limited.

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This occurs when there is inflammation in the sesamoid bones and the surrounding tendons. Sesamoiditis results from the overuse of the toe.

Sesamoid bones are located in the foot and sit beneath the MTP joint. There are also tendons that are attached to these bones. These bones support movement in the area.

Sesamoiditis in the foot can cause pain at the base of the big toe. This can also lead to bruising, swelling, or difficulty moving the toe.

Toe injuries

Several injuries can affect the big toe joint. Such examples include, overuse of the toe can cause a stressfracture. A fracture occurs when there is a crack in the bone that develops due to repetitive force.

Another common cause of toe pain is a sprain. A sprain occurs directly when the ligaments in the toe become stretched or torn.

Turf toe is a common sports injury resulting from repetitive or excessive pressure on a bent toe. This also results in swelling and pain.


A bunion is referred to as a bony lump that develops along the inner side of the MTP joint. This can cause swelling and pain around the big toe. And it can lead to stiffness and restricted flexibility.

Sometimes, the big toe could start to turn toward the second toe; this is referred to as hallux valgus deformity. This condition can make it challenging for a person to wear particular shoes or even to walk.

Bunions can occur to anyone; however, they occur more commonly in people who wear shoes that are tight around the toes.

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In order to determine the cause of pain at the big toe joint, a doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination. The doctor will also question the person about their symptoms, current use of medications, any recent injuries, and lifestyle.

During the physical examination, the doctor may ask you to flex your toe by bending it up and down. Also, the doctor will look for evidence of swelling and bone spurs in the area.

Lastly, the doctor will examine the foot for areas of tenderness and check the skin to see if any sores are present.

Usually, to be thorough, it may be necessary to do an X-ray. This radiological imaging test helps the doctor assess the location and extent of any damage or deformity.

From there on, depending on the underlying cause of the pain, further testing may be necessary. For instance, a blood test may be required to assess uric acid levels in the bloodstream if gout is the cause of pain.


Here are some tips to prevent the pain of the big toe:

  • avoid wearing shoes which are too tight, particularly around the toes
  • avoid excessively exercising because it will place strain on the MTP joint
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • try always to wear appropriate footwear to prevent any risk of injury, i.e., wearing steel-toed boots in a warehouse


Treatment depends on the cause of the big toe joint pain since there are various ways to treat the pain.

Usually, the doctor will recommend a pain reliever, such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). These types of medications help to reduce swelling in the area. If there is any severe inflammation, then perhaps the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.

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Changes in lifestyle may be necessary. For instance, a person who has a bunion will be treated by having to wear orthopedic shoes or shoe inserts.

Another example is that if a particular activity causes the injury, it will be necessary to avoid that activity so the injury can adequately heal. Or if a person has a turf toe, then treatment may involve avoiding the sport since that's what caused the injury.

Some treatments may require physical therapy. Physical therapy helps people with arthritis manage their condition.

In some instances, it may be helpful to lose weight; that way, there is less pressure on the toe.

In some rare cases, surgery may be the only option. For instance, when treatment requires to remove a bunion or repair joint damage.

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We hope this article has helped you with some information regarding causes, diagnosis, preventions, and treatments for pain in the big toe.

In summary, pain, inflammation, and swelling in the big toe are caused by various conditions.

Some of these conditions include gout, osteoarthritis, sports injuries, bunions, and sesamoiditis.

These causes are usually treatable and manageable.

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