Fix for painful feet - no bones about it

You don't have to break a bone to straighten an outward tilting big toe, an orthopedic surgeon says.

Daniel Wu Yiang said the displacement of the big toe is more common in women than men as their naturally laxer ligament makes it easier for the bone supporting the big toe to become displaced.

Wu said patients who have outwardly curved big toes may also suffer from other foot problems such as bunions, clawed toes and calluses - all of which affect the normal function of the feet and cause pain.

The usual remedy is to break the bone in the big toe and realign it.

A study by Wu and the Interdisciplinary Division of Biomedical Engineering of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2010 demonstrated that the lost function of an outwardly curved big toe can be restored by the syndesmosis procedure in which no bone has to be broken.

The procedure involves connecting the malfunctioning ligaments of the big toe to that of the toe next to it by creating a fibrous bridge between them.

"Patients can walk normally after the natural articulation is fully healed after six months," Wu said.

Statistics from a study showed post-surgery improvement in the power of a patient's big toe which pushed the body forward.

A bone-breaking approach is still being adopted in more than 90 percent of the operations that aim at tackling bunion feet, but Wu said patients will suffer less trauma and enjoy earlier mobility after the syndesmosis procedure. Singer and actress Stephy Tang Lai-yan, who had a problem with her toe and said she suffered badly when wearing high heels, successfully underwent the procedure two years ago. Tang said she now has no problems and high heels are a painfree option.

Skating coach Michelle Chak Dui-kee, 31, said she was unable to stand for long periods due to serious pain before she underwent the non-bone-breaking surgery four years ago. "Sometimes, I even had to take leave for one to two days as the pain was too much for me."

Chak said the surgery was successful and she is now able to move around and even jump without problems.

Reference: The Standard