Surgery is always a little scary. Hammertoe surgery will require you to stay off your feet for a few weeks afterward. As you struggle with hammertoe pain, you may think about surgery, but then you might wonder whether it's worth the pain and recovery time. There is no one correct answer here. For some people, living with mild hammertoe pain is better than having to take time off for surgery. However, if any of the following are true of you and your hammertoe, you may want to consider surgery more seriously.
Your toe won't bend anymore.
Usually, when hammertoe first starts off, you can straighten your toe if you try hard enough, and perhaps help it along with your hands. Eventually, though, your toe may seize up completely, to the point that you're unable to straighten it at all. When this occurs, walking can become painful, and you may even struggle to find shoes that fit. Also, your gait may be altered in a way that causes strain on other tendons, ligaments, and muscles in your foot and leg. It's often better to have surgery to correct hammertoe at this stage, rather than wait a few more years and end up with additional foot problems.
You're taking a lot of pain relievers.
Having to take pain relievers for your hammertoe now and then is not a huge deal. But if you're at the point where you're taking medications daily or even a few times per week, that's a sign you should consider hammertoe surgery. Opiate pain relievers are addictive. Even NSAID pain relievers can have serious side effects, like kidney and liver damage, especially when you use them too often. Hammertoe surgery can free you from the need for pain relievers, which is better for your long-term health.
You can't do the things you love.
Sometimes people may think that they will be okay if they are still able to walk somewhat normally. However, if your hammertoe is keeping you from doing the things you really like, such as hiking, cycling, gardening, or dancing, then are you really living your best life? Hammertoe surgery will cause a few weeks of pain during recovery, but then you can do the things you like again. For many patients, that's worth it.
Sometimes hammertoe is just a minor annoyance that you can live with, but other times, it does become a painful encumbrance on your life. If your hammertoe is starting to cross the line and become an encumbrance, it's time to schedule hammertoe surgery.