Osteoarthritis may also affect the joint of the big toe, causing tenderness, aches, and pain. Treatment options include home remedies, pain relief medications, and surgery.

Osteoarthritis typically happens due to wear and tear or overuse. It may be possible to slow the progression of the condition with the correct treatment and lifestyle modifications.

This article provides an overview of osteoarthritis of the big toe, including the symptoms, causes, treatment options, and more.

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Symptoms of big toe osteoarthritis may develop gradually and progress over time. Symptoms can vary and may include one or more of the following:

  • pain
  • tenderness
  • inflammation
  • difficulty in walking
  • limited range of motion
  • warmth around the joint
  • stiffness or loss of flexibility around the joint of the big toe
  • numbness, tingling, or burning sensation in the ankle or foot

A person may experience these symptoms after:

  • standing
  • walking
  • sitting
  • engaging in vigorous activity

Learn more about the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis typically happens gradually over time as a result of natural wear and tear. It may also happen due to overuse of the joint.

Osteoarthritis of the big toe most commonly affects the metatarsophalangeal joint, which is the joint at the bottom of the big toe.

Risk factors for osteoarthritis of the big toe include:

  • aging
  • obesity
  • family history of osteoarthritis

Learn more about the risk factors for osteoarthritis.

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, a person’s doctor will assess the severity of the individual’s symptoms and recommend the most suitable treatment plan.


The doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen to help relieve pain.

They may also recommend corticosteroid injections 3–4 times per year. A person’s doctor will be able to advise on whether they recommend injections according to a person’s condition.

Learn more about osteoarthritis medications.

Physical therapy

A doctor or physical therapist will work with an individual to help them develop a personalized exercise program to help strengthen the muscles in the big toe. They will also help with improving flexibility and range of motion.

If physical therapy increases friction or worsens the pain in the big toe joint, the doctor may recommend other treatments.

Learn more about physical therapy for osteoarthritis.


If the pain causes disability or does not respond to other treatments, a person’s doctor may recommend surgery.

An example of surgery a doctor may recommend is arthroscopic debridement. This is a surgical procedure where the surgeon removes loose, worn-out cartilage from the metatarsophalangeal joint.

Learn more about arthritis surgery.

Various home remedies may help alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis of the big toe. Examples include:

  • applying ice or a cool pack
  • using orthotics or shoe insoles in footwear for extra support
  • maintaining a moderate weight to reduce stress on the joints
  • engaging in low impact activities such as cycling and swimming

Learn more about natural treatments for osteoarthritis.

The doctor may begin by performing a physical examination, taking a full medical history, and asking questions about a person’s symptoms.

They may then order various tests to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other possible causes. Tests they may order include:

As the condition often occurs due to natural wear and tear, a person may not be able to prevent osteoarthritis of the big toe completely.

However, they may slow the condition’s progression with early diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle modifications.

A person’s doctor could advise on ways to slow down the progression of osteoarthritis and what treatments may help them manage symptoms.

Here are some more frequently asked questions about osteoarthritis of the big toe.

How do you fix osteoarthritis in the big toe?

It is generally not possible to completely fix or cure osteoarthritis of the big toe. However, various home remedies and medical treatments can help slow down the progression of the condition and alleviate symptoms. Examples include medication, physical therapy, exercise, and applying ice.

Is walking good for arthritis in the big toe?

A physical therapist can advise on how much they recommend a person walks with osteoarthritis of the big toe. Wearing orthotics or shoe inserts to support the big toe may be beneficial when walking. It is generally advisable to perform low impact exercises, such as cycling or swimming, as they place less pressure on the joints.

What does an arthritic big toe feel like?

A person with arthritis in the big toe may feel pain in the main joint of the big toe, which radiates to surrounding tissues. This can feel like a burning or tingling sensation. It may also feel stiff or numb.

Osteoarthritis of the big toe is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the joints of the big toe. It typically occurs as a result of wear and tear or overuse.

Early diagnosis and treatment may help a person slow the progression of the condition. A doctor may recommend a combination of medical treatments and home remedies.

It is best for a person to contact their doctor if they have concerns about osteoarthritis. They will be able to perform a physical examination and may order tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to confirm the diagnosis.