Sciatica Pain

Understanding Functional Hallux Limitus


Functional hallux limitus is a differential diagnosis from structural hallux limitus. Functional hallux limitus, or FnHL, is identified by the movement deficiency of the first metatarsophalangeal joint, found between the bones of the foot and of the toes, during gait. The first metatarsophalangeal, or MTP, joint reveals regular movements throughout an open kinetic chain evaluation. Radiographs may demonstrate a tiny amount of dorsal spurring of the joint; however, the joint doesn’t necessarily demonstrate pervasive degenerative joint disease as an ultimate source of the health issue.  

Structural hallux limitus, or SHL, is identified by structural adaptations of the first MTP joint, which restrict ordinary movement from happening in the first place. These changes can be acute, with very limited dorsiflexion mobility, )hallux rigidus) or minor (hallux limitus), leading to small changes in dorsiflexion of the first MTP joint. When normal foot insertion during propulsion is interrupted during MTP joint movement to prevent the functioning of the foot construction through maximal hallux dorsiflexion over the effect of the windlass mechanism, the small changes can become considerably significant. In SHL, movement is going to be disrupted during open-and-closed-kinetic string actions. Pain and joint mobility is ultimately connected with any movement of the first metatarsophalangeal, or MTP, joint of the foot and of the toes.  

Although the health issue itself is generally considered to be asymptomatic, the signs and symptoms of this condition can also be associated with a variety of other common pathologies of the foot, including heel pain, lesser metatarsal pain, Morton’s neuroma, Achilles tendon pain, and retrocalcaneal enthesitis as well as posterior tibial tendon dysfunction and postural alignment abnormalities of the lower back, or lumbar spine, and the lower extremities, including sciatica. Research studies have demonstrated that the prevalence of the disorder is much higher among the symptomatic population.  

Identifying Functional Hallux Limitus

Unfortunately, functional hallux limitus is still considered a rare health issue that often goes unaddressed. Outcomes for many different foot disorders will be jeopardized if treatment doesn’t address functional hallux limitus. Foot and postural abnormalities have a basis in poor stabilization function and the windlass mechanism of the foot structure through the plantar fascia. By way of instance, if this stabilizing effect is not present, it’s hypothesized that a range of foot disorders may result in normal foot function, which cannot be achieved without the appropriate purpose of the plantar fascia. Addressing the proper function of the foot has a high predictability for healing mechanically induced foot pain. This remains the goal of the footbed and shoe modifications as the primary focus of orthotic intervention throughout many years in medicine.  

Functional hallux limitus, or FnHL, is commonly diagnosed by a healthcare professional by detecting gait patterns and utilizing pedobarographic evaluations, often requiring a qualified and experienced doctor or pricey equipment. The time-consuming evaluations are also seldom able to be performed in the clinical setting. These challenges may probably contribute to the underdiagnosis of FnHL or functional hallux limitus. Moreover, many healthcare professionals have also identified an FnHL evaluation demonstrated by the stiffening of large toe movement when implementing a loading force from the stage of maximal displacement to the first ray, especially when holding the foot and the toes in a neutral position.  

When hallux dorsiflexion at the MTP joint is ultimately evaluated, there is a stiffening or bending movement of the MTP joint when roughly equal power is applied to the hallux as is applied to the first metatarsal head. Healthcare professionals have demonstrated how several evaluations associated with visual gait evaluations have demonstrated that 72 percent of patients with a pronated midtarsal joint also had a positive evaluation for functional hallux limitus. Approximately 66 percent of patients with normal midtarsal joint motion had a negative test result. Healthcare professionals believe this is a reliable test for diagnosing abnormal foot function. These types of evaluations have been conducted on asymptomatic individuals. 

Functional Hallux Limitus and Sciatica

Functional hallux limitus is often commonly asymptomatic. Therefore, it is rarely recognized as the functional inability of the first metatarsophalangeal, or MTP, joint to dorsiflex during gait. Normal movement is present in this joint during non-weight-bearing evaluations. Because the joint controls the pivot from which the entire body moves forward during each step, this disturbance in function, when repeated multiple times regularly, can ultimately affect the foot and postural biomechanics. It can also cause and aggravate many underlying health issues, including low back pain and sciatica. When functional hallux limitus is addressed in an orthotic treatment plan, 77 percent of long-term postural problem patients demonstrate 50 percent to 100 percent improvement in their overall health and wellness, among other health issues.

As soon as the diagnosis for FnHL has been made, the healthcare professional will want to address this health issue with the best treatment approach. Because this is a fundamental derangement of movement of the first MTP joint, conservative treatment is often successful and can be easily demonstrated in the foot evaluation. Surgery is seldom indicated. This is in contrast to structural hallux limitus, or SHL, which often does require surgical interventions to restore a pain-free assortment of motion. FnHL is generally a misalignment of the first MTP joint in which the first metatarsal is dorsally displaced, restricting the average movement of the proximal phalanx in the first metatarsal head. It’s essential for a healthcare professional to accurately diagnose functional hallux limitus to follow up with the proper treatment.


Because of the multifaceted nature of functional hallux limitus, understanding the health issue is ultimately fundamental for healthcare professionals and patients alike. Fortunately, there are many treatment approaches for functional hallux limitus depending on the nature of the pathology. As described above, functional hallux limitus is demonstrated as a normal range of hallux dorsiflexion during non-weight-bearing, however, there is a considerable decrease in hallux dorsiflexion. Functional hallux limitus has also been demonstrated to cause sciatica. – Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight

Fibromyalgia Magazine

Additional Topic Discussion: Severe Sciatica

Back pain is one of the most prevalent causes of disability and missed days at work worldwide. Back pain attributes to the second most common reason for doctor office visits, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. Approximately 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at least once throughout their life. Your spine is a complex structure of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles, among other soft tissues. Injuries and/or aggravated conditions, such as herniated discs, can eventually lead to symptoms of sciatica or sciatic nerve pain. Sports or automobile accident injuries are often the most frequent cause of painful symptoms; however, the simplest movements can sometimes have these results. Fortunately, alternative treatment options, such as chiropractic care, can help ease sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, through the utilization of spinal adjustments and manual manipulations, ultimately improving pain relief.  

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The information herein on "Understanding Functional Hallux Limitus" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, acupuncture, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*


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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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