Now, there's a new treatment that's helping sufferers get back on their feet.
"Tape a rock, a pebble under your toe and try walking around barefoot," Mary Lou Barlow, suffered from hammertoes, told Ivanhoe.
For years, every step Mary Lou Barlow took--hurt!
"I couldn't walk on it because if I did I had to wear something cushioned; I couldn't go barefoot," Barlow recalled.
Barlow suffered with hammertoes…toes bent painfully out of their normal position. The traditional treatment is a long pin sticking out the front of the toe that stays in for weeks to straighten it.
"It was just too traumatic, I just didn't want to do it," Barlow said.
Duke University surgeon Dr. Selene Parekh told Barlow she was a good candidate for this new smart toe implant.
"We'll cut a little bit of the bone out and we'll drop the implant into the bone, into the two bones that surround the joint. That will then hold the toe straight," Selene G. Parekh, M.D., MBA, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Duke University Health System, explained.
Kept on ice before surgery, the implant expands with the heat of the body, holding the bone in place while it heals.
"This has been a revolutionary change for hammer toe surgery," Dr. Parekh added.
Just five weeks after getting the implant, Barlow is back on her feet -- even going barefoot without pain. "I am going to be running around the house without shoes on, from now on!" Barlow concluded. A busy woman, happy to be back in step with her active lifestyle.
The hammertoe implant is performed as a same day outpatient procedure. Patients wear a special therapeutic shoe for the first few weeks after surgery.
Once the implant is in the joint, the patient is not able to bend the affected toe, but several weeks after surgery, they can wear almost any kind of shoes, even high heels, or go barefoot without the discomfort they used to have.
If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at firstname.lastname@example.org