Illustration by Angelica Alzona/GMG

It’s time to speak about toes right here on Burning Questions, which ought to be a aid to anybody who has learn the previous few installments. As at all times, I’m right here to reply the questions you’ll really feel bizarre asking anyone else.

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As we speak’s query is from a reader whose toes perplex him.

The toes in your toes? You’ll be able to most likely wiggle all of them, individually. You’ll be able to most likely curl them up a lot you could primarily conceal them beneath your foot. It looks like everybody has this dexterity.

I don’t.

I can not curl my toes, I can not individually wiggle every toe, I can not conceal them beneath my foot or curl them up on the carpet, or something like that!

I don’t know why or what it’s, I really feel like a health care provider would simply inform me to stretch extra, however my large toe can solely go to date again earlier than it hurts, and it isn’t a lot. My toes are high-quality, I don’t have a uncommon situation or anything I’m conscious of that’s past bronchial asthma.

Attempting to look this on google results in nothing, I’ve by no means requested my physician however I’ve been so curious to know whether it is known as one thing and learn how to get that flexibility in my toes.

Really, I can’t wiggle all of my toes individually. I can transfer my large toe individually from the opposite 4, however that’s it. Are different folks capable of wiggle their toes extra dextrously than the 2 of us? The Little Mermaid can, however I’m unsure that she counts.

So I requested our questioner if he may ship a video to see if his toes are literally newsworthy. I anticipated I’d simply have to interrupt it to him that not all of us have elegant, versatile, ballet-ready toes. However then he confirmed me this. Nope, that’s not regular.

It appears our letter author can’t bend his toes in any respect. He advised me in a later electronic mail that he anticipated the specialists I consulted to right away acknowledge it: “I’d suppose they’d say, ‘oh that’s a basic case of _______’. I assumed this shit would have a reputation!”

This shit doesn’t have a reputation. Let’s undergo the probabilities for what’s occurring right here from scariest to most reassuring, and we’ll end with the methods during which all of us are poor in comparison with cartoon mermaids.

The Critical Stuff

“If he had had a traumatic harm or was experiencing extreme again ache and instantly misplaced the power to maneuver his toes, I’d surprise if he had a spinal wire harm or was severely compressing a nerve, however this doesn’t appear the case for him,” says bodily therapist Jasmine Marcus. One other bodily therapist, Jason Kart, provides that tarsal tunnel syndrome is one kind of nerve compression that may end up in issues bending the toes. Issues with the mind may additionally trigger bother activating muscle tissues within the toes, he says, “however there’ll be a bunch of different actually bizarre signs going together with that.”

Gout and bunions also can trigger points with toe mobility, however none of these appear to be the case both.

Stretching and Strengthening

Marcus requested whether or not our questioner can bend his toes passively, by grabbing them together with his fingers and transferring them into place. “If they’ll, his situation is extra doubtless muscular and I’d suggest stretching and strengthening the muscle tissues in his toes.” Certainly, he can bend them passively, however his large toe doesn’t bend as a lot and tends to make a snapping sound for those who pressure it.

“Hold stretching, nevertheless it’s attainable that one thing isn’t fairly proper with the toe joints, resembling arthritis,” she says. Kart provides that a small bone spur can also be a risk.

Each agreed that our questioner would do effectively to strive stretching and strengthening the muscle tissues in his toes and decrease legs. In case your toes don’t bend effectively while you stroll, your legs and hips could should compensate in methods that may result in harm down the road. And the reverse also can occur: issues within the legs can result in issues within the toes.

At one level in our dialog, our good friend famous that he has by no means had some other issues together with his legs except for shin splints. “Now the tru[th] comes out!” stated Kart. Shin splints are extra frequent in folks with flat toes, and flat toes go hand-in-hand (er, foot) with over-stretched muscle tissues on the underside of the toes. The muscle tissues that ought to be curling the toes could merely be too weak to do their job.

Regardless of the trigger, workouts for the toes are doubtless to assist at the least a bit bit, by growing energy, flexibility, and possibly a bit little bit of motor management that may assist our letter-writer start to dream of wiggling his toes. One technique to begin: toe yoga.

OK, However What’s Regular?

Is it actually so uncommon to have toes which can be a bit rigid, or you could’t transfer individually? That’s really completely regular, says Kart:

As a bodily therapist, I see toes all day. There are numerous variations in construction. Simply enterprise out to the seashore and also you’ll see what I imply. A few of these variations are genetic, some are acquired mechanically out of your strolling sample. There may be a variety of regular right here.

The shortage of skill to wiggle your toes individually isn’t a problem until you’re a [non-human] primate. Our large toe has some muscle tissues which can be devoted to its motion, so that may transfer by itself. In contrast to the hand, the opposite toes have principally a couple of muscle tissues which can be devoted to all of them collectively. (That’s why you’ll be able to’t give your good friend the center toe.)

That’s it for this installment of Burning Questions. When you have burning questions of your individual, electronic mail them to me at (please put BURNING QUESTION within the topic line), or drop them into the nameless type at


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