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Thursday, September 27, 2012

I developed intense pain in my large toe joint and reduced flexibility

I receive more inquiries about sore big toes than anything else.  My instructional video on the topic has had an astonishing 120,000 views.  Here are two emails received today:

"I have hallax limitus in my big toe. I still have motion but I have pain every day. I heard there is a massage I can do and vitamins I can take to rebuild that area. Can you help? "


"Hello, I am a 42 year old woman living in Chicago, USA. I was watching your massage video on Alofa for her hallux rigidus condition. I similarly badly stubbed my toe while walking in June. Soon after I developed intense pain in my large toe joint and reduced flexibility. My orthopedist diagnosed it as hallux rigidus and gave me a steroid shot between my toes. It has made minimal difference. I feel I would benefit from the massga technique you demonstrated. I would be most appreciative if you could recommend anyone in the Chicago area (or even the mid west area of the States) who is certified and performs this technique?" 

An early photo of Priscilla Welch
Before I answer the questions in the emails above, let me give a little history about how I got around top pulling people's big toes....

I first learned this technique in the early 1980's.  It was around that time that NZ was a popular training base for "professional" runners for off-season training, a way to escape harsh Northern Hemisphere winters.  For, example, Japanese running squads trained in South Canterbury, while various athletes, like Dave Bedford, hung out in Auckland, trained hard, sun-bathed and drank lots of beer.

Some of these athletes brought their athletic trainers with them.  It was through my sister, Lorraine, that I was introduced to two of these trainers.  One was Dave Welch, husband of marathon champion, Priscilla Welch.  I can not remember the other who I met several years earlier than Dave.  As there were no training courses in New Zealand resembling anything like what these health professionals practiced, I paid each a Grand or so, plus expenses, to come to Wellington to teach me and my staff their methods (I was running and health and fitness consultancy service at the time).

One of the topics that came up each time was how to treat an impacted big toe, otherwise known as "turf toe", due to its being commonly suffered by athletes who play on artificial turf.  Back then, there were no fancy terms for this condition, such as "hallux rigidus", which simply means "stiff big toe" (why don't they just say what it is?).

The treatment we were taught was really simple:

Pull the Big Toe!

Sadly, with the big money involved nowadays with the manufacture and sale of mostly useless custom orthotics, lucrative cortisone injections and even more lucrative surgical methods to fuse the toe joints, the method I was taught has as good as been wiped from training curricula and deleted from the textbooks.

Now, about the emails above....

Can I recommend a certified therapist in your area?

Sadly, I can not.  The reason:  Because I do not know of a single therapist anywhere, other than myself, who has had any training in this procedure.  The best thing to do is to find a therapist who is trained in joint manipulation, such as an osteopath or chiropractor, and ask them to traction and mobilise the affected joint. They should know what to do.

You will need to have this done once weekly for as long as it takes to notice lasting relief.  Give it three months and you should notice a benefit within 3-6 sessions (weeks).  However, mobilising the toe will not work if there are underlying drivers that are not treated concurrently, such as the damaging effect on joints of some medications.

Things you can do for sore feet in general

Please read this article and follow the advice:

Supplements one can take for a sore big toe

Yes, there are some that I can recommend although it is wise to get some testing done first, such as a hair tissue mineral analysis (I can do this for you).  However, in the absence of testing there are some general things one can do:

Glucosamine and chondroitin

Ignore the arguing to and fro about the merits or otherwise: My experience over 15 years is it does help give relief to joint pain and it might even help reverse arthritic processes.

Magnesium and zinc

Both of these minerals tend to be in short supply in people with joint pain and poor healing.

What about calcium?

Excess calcium relative to magnesium may result in calcium depositing into soft tissues, including joints.  Unless you have a hair tissue mineral analysis that clearly shows you need more calcium, it is better that you avoid calcium while emphasising magnesium and zinc.

What about heavy metals like lead and mercury?

If these are present in the body in even the tiniest amounts, they can gradually destroy joints over the years.  The big toe is most vulnerable since it is the joint furthest away from the central circulation.  And it is a hard-working structure.  It will play up first.

If you have testing (the hair test is best) that shows the presence of heavy metals, contact me for advice about how to get rid of it safely.

Protein and fats

Low protein and fat intake can starve the body of essential base nutrients for the manufacture of strong and resilient structures.  Protein and fat are equally, if not more important for strong bones and joints than just about anything else.  It is important to dribble the protein into the body over the day and not concentrate it into a single meal.

My Super Smoothie, taken a cup at a time 2-4 times a day is perfect and contains the right mix of vitamins and minerals for strong bones and joints.  Add some coconut cream or blend in some coconut oil, plus a dessertspoon of flax oil.

Medications may destroy your joints

We are now seeing an explosion in arthritis that I associate closely with the use of steroids, especially those prescribed for asthma.  While it may take decades to be obvious, these drugs thin tissues, including bone and cartilage. 

Asthma medication

I am of the opinion that the reliance on asthma medication as the sole treatment if asthma to the exclusion of all else, is leading to disastrous long-term health consequences, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, tendinitis, thyroditis, adrenal fatigue, depression, anxiety and other nervous disorders.

The same can be said for other medications for osteoporosis, blood pressure, cholesterol and even birth control.

If you think your medication may be affecting your health, including your joints, consult your health professional.  You are welcome to contact me directly for an opinion.


There are safe and effective alternatives to fusing a toe joint or destroying tissue with chemical injections.  Such procedures should only be employed well after all else has been tried and shown to fail.

Therapies such as mobilising the toe, adding corrective vitamins and minerals, sorting out the negative effects of medications for other health conditions all take time - several months in most cases.  This requires a good deal of patience which can be difficult when in a society that has been conditioned to expect instant results.

So, please be patient.  Restoring good health is not an overnight thing.  There are no quick-fixes - or if they are they usually come with a BIG downside.

The good news about a stiff, sore toe:

Nobody has ever died from one!

About this website
The advice in these articles is given freely without promise or obligation.  Its all about giving you and your family the tools and information to take control of your health and fitness.

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