Is My Toe Broken?

There are more than 50 bones in your two feet, making them a danger zone when it comes to musculoskeletal hazards. In fact, toe injuries are among the most prevalent conditions that we treat.

Since the symptoms of a toe sprain and a toe fracture can look quite similar, many patients have trouble identifying the root cause of the issue. Still, an accurate diagnosis is necessary to make sure proper treatment methods are utilized and possible complications are considered.

A broken toe will usually display the following symptoms:

  • stiffness, swelling, and pain
  • trouble walking on and applying pressure to your feet (especially if big toe is injured)
  • bruised skin
  • bent or distorted appearance

Your doctor will be relying on you to provide as much information as possible about the source of the injury. Almost always, a fractured toe results from a severe and direct trauma (tripping, stubbing, kicking, impact from a heavy object, etc.), although there are also repetitive athletic activities that can cause stress (or hairline) fractures. Often, an X-ray or an MRI may be needed to assess the severity of the injury.

Home treatment is very commonly the only required course of action, which consists of rest (to reduce pressure on the healing bone), ice, and elevation (to reduce swelling and pain). With small bones like those found in the toes, compression is not recommended. However, if you notice any of the following indications, consult a physician at once:

  • a compound (open) fracture, marked by bleeding or other fluid leakage
  • numbness or tingling
  • skin discoloration
  • notable increase in pain
  • wound or sore infection

Patients who suffer a broken toe that is not appropriately treated leave themselves open to a variety of complications, including nail injuries, compound fractures, and even arthritis. A cast or a “buddy taping” system (securing the hurt toe to its neighbor) may be recommended to protect and immobilize the injured toe. In some cases, a reduction (or resetting) of the bone may be necessary.

The bottom line is, if you are worried that your bone may be broken, you should consult a medical professional who can help form an accurate diagnosis and put you on a proper course for recovery.