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Pain in Big Toe

Having sharp throbbing pain in your big toe? Get more insights on the possible causes of big toe pain, symptoms, treatment, home remedies to relieve the pain.
Take a look at your feet. Do you see that your first toe is visibly bigger than the rest of them? This toe is called as the big toe or hallux. Your feet contain a complex network of veins, blood vessels, ligaments, tendons, bones, joints and muscles, many of which end at the big toe itself. The extension and flexion of your big toe is important for providing thrust during walking. Unfortunately, your big toe is prone to a lot of shock and pressure due to your daily activities. You are likely to experience pain in big toe, especially if you have walked a lot or injured your toe due to some reason. Pain in the big toe, due to whatever reasons may make it difficult for you to walk or remain active.

Symptoms of Big Toe Pain

Pain in the big toe is especially worrisome if it comes along with symptoms like swelling, discoloration, pus, numbness or stiffness.

What are the Causes of Pain in the Big Toe?

Pain in the big toe may emanate either from the joints or bones of the toe or may be superficial due to some infection or injury in the toenail. In some cases, underlying medical conditions, such as gout, may cause pain in the big toe. The most common reasons for pain in the big toe are:


If there is swelling on the big toe along with the pain, you may have possibly injured your toe. In such cases, it is important to visit a doctor to find out if you have fractured your big toe due to the injury.

Toenail infections

You may experience severe pain in the big toe along with redness and swelling due to ingrown toenails or toenail infection or injury. In case of fungal toenail infection, your toenail may turn black or green in color and you may notice some green pus coming out of the nail bed or from underneath the toenail. Elderly people or people with diabetes are more likely to suffer from toenail infections.

Blood clots

If you have pain in the big toe associated with cold digits, feeling of numbness and sudden discoloration of toes, you must consult a physician immediately as this may indicate a serious medical condition, such as vascular diseases. These symptoms may occur due to the presence of a blood clot, probably in the heart or the arteries and may have cut off the blood supply to the tissues of your big toe. The numbness and cold digits may be indicative of necrosis of the big toe.


Bunions (also called as hallux valgus) are large bumps that are formed over the big toe, at the joints. Bunions may cause a shift in the position of the big toe. It occurs due to use of tight and uncomfortable shoes. Continuing the use of ill-fitted shoes may make the bunions turn red and more irritated. Sometimes, bunion like deformity of the big toe is seen in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

Hallux rigidus

As the name suggests, hallux rigidus or hallux limitus is a medical condition which is associated with stiffness of the big toe at the joint and may cause severe pain. Some amount of flexibility of the big toe is required for normal gait. Hallux rigidus limits the movement of the big toe joint which may lead to development of arthritis. Development of arthritis can further reduce the mobility of the big toe. You may sometimes see swelling on the affected toe. The pain and stiffness in your big toe may worsen if you stand or walk for a long time, especially when the weather is too cold. Hallux rigidus may lead to formation of bunion at the big toe joint.


Gout is a condition that occurs due to accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints of your big toe. You may experience sharp pain even if you touch your toe slightly. Ignoring gout attacks for a longer period of time may lead to damage of the big toe joints. Men and post-menopausal women are at increased risk of developing gout. You may have to get a blood test done to diagnose gout. Patients with gout may have to consider dietary modifications to treat the condition.


Osteoarthritis can affect all toes of your feet. However, your big toe is more prone to it. You may experience unbearable pain and stiffness. It is caused due to excessive stress or trauma, causing wear and tear of the joints of the feet. Osteoarthritis may be caused due to fracture or dislocation of the big toe bone. Other types of arthritis such as psoriatic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may also cause pain in the big toe.

Tendonitis of the big toe

Inflammation in the tendons and ligaments around the big toe may also lead to pain in the big toe. Tendons are composed of connective tissues that connect the bones to the muscles. Tendons in the great toe are more susceptible to inflammation because it faces a lot of stress during exercise owing to the tightness of calf.


Sesamoiditis is a condition in which the two small bones at the base of your big toe (sesamoid bones) get inflamed. The sesamoid bones help in flexing your big toe downwards. Inflammation in the sesamoid bones occurs due to the trauma caused due to excessive athletic activities. Another condition which is caused due to excessive trauma, especially due to stubbing the big toe repeatedly is called turf toe. Turf toe occurs due to sprain in the ligaments of the big toe.

Other conditions such as Morton’s neuroma, tennis toe, tumors, mallet or claw toe may also cause pain in the big toe.

How Can I Get Rid of the Pain in my Big Toe?

The treatment module will depend on the intensity and cause of the pain. For instance, if the pain in your big toe is due to a bunion you may have to undergo a surgery to correct it. If it is due to a fungal infection, you may have to take antifungal medications to get rid of the infection. If you have an ingrown toenail, you may have to visit a podiatrist to have the nail border removed. You may have to take some pain relieving medications to alleviate the pain in your big toe.

It is advisable not to ignore the pain in your big toe, especially if you do not know the reason behind the pain. You should visit your physician to diagnose the underlying medical conditions, if any. It is important to treat the medical conditions to relieve the pain in your toes. Moreover, treating the underlying condition will help in prevents further complications that can eventually lead to serious consequences such as amputation of the affected big toe.

Home Remedies

You may try the following home-remedies to relieve the pain:

Try the RICE method

RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If you have immense pain in your big toe, it is advisable that you should avoid walking too much. Your big toe needs some rest. In the meanwhile, you should apply ice pack and cold or warm compress. Keeping your feet elevated while sitting or sleeping helps in reducing the pain.

Stretching exercises and physical therapy

Some stretching exercises may help in reducing the stiffness, numbness and pain in your big toe. You may visit a professional physiotherapist to know the exercise that best suits your condition.

Wear the right shoes

One of the major reasons for any problem associated to feet is use of uncomfortable and ill-fitted shoes. It is advisable to buy shoes that are ½ inch bigger than the actual size of your feet.

How can I prevent pain in the big toe?

You can prevent big toe pain by following a few precautionary measures:

  • You should always wear shoes that fit you properly.
  • The shoes and socks that you wear should be of breathable material and should be able to absorb the sweat on your feet.
  • Exercise regularly to keep your weight under control. Overweight people are more likely to suffer from pain in the big toe.
  • Drink plenty of water if you exercise a lot.
  • If you are suffering from gout, eat healthy foods that do not produce uric acid.
  • Avoid driving if you have pain in your big toe.

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