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Definition

What is a broken toe?

A broken toe occurs when you drop something on your foot or stub your toe.

In most cases, a broken toe can be immobilized by taping it to a neighboring toe. But if the fracture is severe — particularly if it involves your big toe — you may need a cast or even surgery to ensure that your broken toe heals properly.

Most broken toes heal well, usually within four to six weeks. Less commonly, depending on the precise location and severity of the injury, a broken toe may become infected or be more vulnerable to osteoarthritis in the future.

How common is a broken toe?

This condition is quite common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of broken toe?

The common symptoms of broken toe are:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes a broken toe?

In most instances, a broken toe occurs when you drop something heavy on your foot or you stub your toe against something hard.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for a broken toe?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is a broken toe diagnosed?

A doctor will ask some questions to determine how the toe was injured. Then the doctor will examine the injured toe and should also make sure there are no other injuries.

It is best to seek medical evaluation soon after the injury to ensure proper treatment and healing.

A doctor may take an X-ray to see if a toe is broken or fractured.

X-rays are not always necessary to make the diagnosis of a broken toe, especially if the break is in one of the smaller toes.

How is a broken toe treated?

Medications

The pain associated with simple toe fractures typically can be relieved with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Stronger painkillers can be prescribed if the pain from your fracture is more severe.

Reduction

If the broken fragments of your bone don’t fit snugly together, your doctor may need to manipulate the pieces back into their proper positions — a process called reduction. In most cases, this can be accomplished without cutting open your skin. Ice or an injected anesthetic is used to numb your toe.

Immobilization

To heal, a broken bone must be immobilized so that its ends can knit back together. Examples include:

  • Buddy taping. If you have a simple fracture in any of your smaller toes, your doctor may simply tape the injured toe to its neighboring toe. The uninjured toe acts like a splint. Always put some gauze or felt in between toes before taping them together to prevent skin irritation.
  • Wearing a stiff-bottomed shoe. Your doctor might prescribe a post-surgical shoe that has a stiff bottom and a soft top that closes with strips of fabric fastener. This can prevent your toe from flexing and provide more room to accommodate the swelling.
  • If the fragments of your broken toe won’t stay snugly together, you may need a walking cast.

Surgery

In some cases, a surgeon may need to use pins, plates or screws to maintain proper position of your bones during healing.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a broken toe?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with broken toe:

  • Elevation and ice can help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Prop your foot up when possible so that your injury is higher than your heart.
  • If you use ice, wrap it in a towel so that it doesn’t make direct contact with your skin, and only apply it for 20 minutes at a time

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: August 21, 2017 | Last Modified: August 21, 2017

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