Despite their small size, the toes play an important part in walking and balancing. Injuries to the toes can impair a person’s stride, causing damage to other joints such as the hips and knees. Because of the importance of the toes in daily life, a broken toe can be inconvenient and painful.
Although some people feel that a broken toe cannot be fixed, this is not always the case. In fact, most toe fractures should be evaluated by a doctor. Broken toes that are not treated might lead to more painful problems in the future.
Because foot fractures are prevalent, it’s a good idea to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a broken toe, as well as when to seek medical attention.
Continue reading to learn how to recognize and treat a broken toe, as well as the many sorts of fractures and breaks, as well as recovery times.
A physical exam and an X-ray are usually used to diagnose a broken toe by a podiatrist, orthopedic surgeon, or family doctor.
While a visual examination of the toe can typically detect a displaced fracture, a doctor may still order an X-ray to examine the damage and choose the appropriate therapy.
Individuals can speed up the healing process by seeing a doctor for a diagnosis and following directions on how to care for their toe. The following are some of the treatments for a broken toe:
- Surgery: For more significant toe fractures, surgery may be required. To align the bones and allow them to recover in the proper position, surgeons may need to put a pin in the toe.
- Antibiotics or a tetanus shot: Doctors may prescribe extra drugs to help prevent infection in specific circumstances. This might happen if the skin is injured as a result of the bone break.
- Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE): The RICE approach can be used to treat a wide range of ailments, including broken toes. It can help the toe recover faster and reduce pain. A slight toe fracture may just require this treatment.
- Buddy taping: Wrapping the toe and taping it to the toe next to it keeps it supported and protected.
- A post-surgery shoe or boot: The hard sole of these gadgets allows a person to walk without bending their toes. It also assists in removing part of the body’s weight from the painful toe.
- Bone setting: A doctor may need to reposition the bones for more severe displaced fractures in order for them to heal properly. To alleviate pain, they would usually do it with numbing drugs.
It’s important to remember that ice packs should never be used for more than 10 minutes at a time. They should never put them on the skin directly because this can cause frostbite.
People should also avoid wrapping the tape around a toe in a circular pattern, as this could cut off the toe’s blood supply and cause in lasting harm.
Standard treatment options
Doctors have conventional or default treatment options for toe fractures, according to one scholarly paper. Depending on whether the fracture is in the big toe or not, the treatment options differ. The goal is for the person to keep their toe as still and straight as possible throughout the healing process.
Big toe fractures
There are two stages of treatment for these fractures. For the first 2–3 weeks, doctors will recommend either a walking boot or a cast with a toe plate. For the next 3–4 weeks, they will propose a rigid-sole shoe.
Fractures in a smaller toe
For 4–6 weeks, doctors will propose buddy taping and a rigid-sole shoe.
Pain and trouble walking are the most prevalent symptoms of fractured toes.
The severity of these symptoms can differ from one person to the next. After a pause, some people may be able to walk on their toes again, while others may find the pain to be incapacitating.
A number of factors can influence the symptoms of a broken toe, including:
- how the bone broke
- where it is broken, including whether it is near a joint
- other medical conditions, such as gout or arthritis
- the severity of the break
- whether the broken bone has moved out of its proper location or become displaced
A toe can break in a variety of ways. Stress fractures, falls, and dropping an object on the foot are examples of these.
Many people will struggle to identify the difference between a broken toe and another injury, such as a muscular sprain or a nasty bruise, because the symptoms vary so much and the breaks can be slight to severe.
The following are the signs and symptoms of each type of break:
Broken toes can be caused by painful and major events such as falling, stubbing the toe very hard, or dropping an object on the toe. Traumatic fractures, often known as bone breaks, are common in sportsmen.
Fractures caused by trauma can range in severity from small to severe. A “pop” or “crack” sound may be heard when a bone breaks, however this is not always the case.
The following are some of the signs of a traumatic fracture that may appear shortly after the event:
- pain that does not go away with rest
Bruises that are dark purple, gray, or black are common in traumatic fractures.
If a person does not seek treatment, these symptoms can last for several weeks.
Stress fractures are small hairline breaches in the bone that form as a result of repeated stress. They’re a form of overuse injury that usually affects the legs and feet.
Stress fractures can occur months or years after beginning an activity that exerts stress on the bones, such as running.
Stress fractures can arise when the muscles of the toe become too weak to withstand force, according to a 2021 review. The toe bone becomes vulnerable to pressure and impact without the support of the muscle. When a bone is subjected to too much stress, it will eventually crack.
A stress fracture in the toe can cause the following symptoms:
- pain that goes away with rest
- swelling without bruising
- pain that occurs after activities such as walking or running
- soreness or tenderness when touched
The broken bone has migrated out of place, resulting in a displaced fracture. This is more likely to happen with more serious traumatic fractures.
A misplaced fracture in the toe might cause the toe to seem crooked, according to a recent article. A displaced fracture may tear the skin and cause the bone to protrude from the incision in some situations.
Broken toe healing timeframes will undoubtedly vary from person to person.
A big toe fracture, on the other hand, usually takes 5–7 weeks to heal. It will take 4–6 weeks for fractures in smaller toes.
While things can go wrong, data reveals that only a small percentage of people with fractured toes require surgical treatment.
Vs. a sprained toe
Sprains are different from fractures because they damage the muscles and ligaments.
A sprained toe occurs when the muscles and ligaments in the toe are injured. Despite the fact that sprained and fractured toes are very different, a new study found that their symptoms can be very similar.
Sprained toes cause the following symptoms:
- difficulty walking
Toe sprains can take up to 6 weeks to heal. R.I.C.E. and stiff-soled shoes are essential for sprained toe treatment, just as they are for broken toes.
Different types of toe fractures have some similar problems, according to a 2017 article:
- Sesamoid fracture: Small bones at the base of the big toe are known as sesamoids. Sesamoid fractures can take a long time to heal, resulting in long-term pain and a reduction in athletic performance.
- Hallux fractures: Hallux fractures are types of fractures in the big toe. They can cause to foot and big toe abnormalities. These fractures can also impair a person’s big toe’s range of motion, causing long-term walking issues.
- Surgery: Toe fractures can be treated surgically, although this can cause in nerve damage and infection.
- Cartilage injury: When a fracture enters a joint, it can harm the cartilage, resulting in deformity and traumatic osteoarthritis.
Although accidents and injuries cannot always be avoided, the following precautions can help reduce the chance of breaking a toe:
- Avoid wearing non-supportive shoes, such as flip-flops: Flip-flops provide minimal support for the foot, putting undue strain on muscles and bones. A person wearing these shoes is at risk of stubbling their toe. Furthermore, these shoes provide no protection for the toes in the event of a fall.
- Replace footwear when the soles begin to wear out: When the soles of a person’s shoes grow worn and smooth, they are more likely to fall or trip. This may result in a toe injury. Regularly inspecting the bottoms of shoes for signs of wear may be beneficial.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can lessen the chance of falling in people aged 65 and over, according to a 2020 study. Falls can cause in toe injuries, including fractures.
- Manage diabetes: Neuropathy, which affects the nerves in the foot, is a risk for people. This can result in balance issues, increased falls, and foot injuries that take longer to heal. Foot problems, in general, can be worse for people with diabetes, according to the National Health Service (NHS).
Toes that have been broken are often able to heal on their own. Nonetheless, it is advisable to get medical advice for the necessary treatment to ensure that the bone heals properly.
Proper medical treatment guarantees that a minor break doesn’t turn into a major problem later.
A person’s toes might suffer from a variety of various types of breakage. Trauma from sports injuries, stubbing the toes, and tripping and falling are all common causes of broken toes.
A fractured toe’s treatment and recovery time will vary depending on the cause and severity of the break.
Anyone who suspects they have sprained or broken a toe should get medical help to ensure the injury heals properly and does not cause long-term difficulties as a result of improper healing.