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How To Care For A Broken Toe

How To Care For A Broken Toe

How To Care For A Broken Toe 750 500 laura@lapreme.co.uk

If you are struggling with a broken toe, you’re in the right place. Having a broken toe can be a painful and irritating experience, but fear not; there are ways you can improve the healing process and make it slightly more comfortable being on your feet. Our latest blog will discuss the best ways to manage a broken toe and deal with the pain. You shouldn’t let anything slow you down, and that includes a broken toe. 

What is a broken toe?

The anatomy of the foot is fantastic; it is made of 26 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. The toe bones are known as phalanges. A broken toe occurs when one of these bones becomes broken, fractured or damaged. The most common toe that is broken is the pinky toe, with a fracture occurring at the base of the toe.

Your four smaller toes consist of 3 bones (phalanges) and two joints; these are:

  • The proximal – the bone closest to the foot
  • The middle – the bone between the proximal and the distal 
  • The distal – the bone at the end of the toe

The big toe, however, has only two bones and one joint. These are the proximal and the distal phalanx bones. 

What are the different types of toe fractures?

When breaking or fracturing your toe, if assessed by a professional, the injury will typically fall under one of the following categories. These categories discern the type of injury you have sustained and will likely alter the form of treatment you require. The different types of toe fractures include:

  1. Stress fractures – formed by repetitive degenerative actions and overuse that places force on your toes, for example, explosive actions like jumping or playing football. This type of fracture is sometimes also known as a hairline fracture. 
  2. Avulsion fracture – Occurs when the bone becomes chipped or damaged; this most frequently occurs when the tendon pulls from the bone.
  3. Non-displaced fractures – a broken toe in which the bone has cracked but not broken apart from the main section maintaining proper alignment. 
  4. Displaced fracture – a more severe injury than a non-displaced fracture; a displaced fracture is when the broken section of bone has been separated from the rest of the bone. 
  5. Open or compound fractures – perhaps the most gruesome to look at. This type of fracture occurs when the bone protrudes through the skin.

With proper assessment from a fully trained podiatrist, it can be easier to tell which type of fracture you have (unless it is an open fracture).

What to do if you have a broken toe

Unlike other bone breakages, a broken toe usually doesn’t require an X-ray. This is because broken and badly bruised or damaged toes are usually treated in the same way. The most common ways to treat a broken toe include:

  • Rest & Ice – Over time, with rest, your damaged toe will begin to heal itself. The ice will help to slow down inflammation and ease pain. 
  • Pain reduction and anti-inflammatory medication – As the name suggests, regular anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen will help to ease the pain of a broken toe. 
  • Splinting – Also known as buddy taping, the broken toe will be strapped or taped to the next healthy toe. This will help to provide stability and ensure your toe heals in the correct position.
  • Casting – A solution for more serious injuries or if the toe has also become dislocated. Similarly to buddy taping, this will ensure your toe heals well and is in the correct position. 

Injuries to the big toe are usually worse than breaking one of the smaller toes. If you suspect you have broken your big toe, you should consult a podiatrist or foot care professional like ourselves. This is because if the joint of the toe has become disrupted or dislocated, the toe may require surgery or manipulation to help it repair properly. 

Complications caused by a broken toe 

When breaking a toe, it is vital that you seek professional treatment to prevent further complications from arising in the future. Some of these complications include:

  • Early development of arthritis in your feet/toes
  • Continuous pain in your toes
  • Infections following compound fractures 
  • Trouble finding shoes that don’t cause pain

An early and accurate examination of any form of fracture is the best way to ensure that your toe heals correctly and doesn’t cause any further issues. At our Glasgow-based podiatry clinic, we are experts in both cosmetic and medical foot care and will provide you with the best form of treatment available. Upon identifying a fracture, we will develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your injury and will help get you back on your feet in no time. 

FAQ’s and broken toe misconceptions

Broken toes are a very common injury but are still shrouded in misconceptions of how they should be cared for. Here are some common questions we have heard:

Should I see a doctor or a podiatrist for a broken toe?

We often hear that “there is nothing a doctor will do for a broken toe”. This is both incorrect and could cause further damage or complications if followed. If a fractured or broken toe isn’t correctly treated, it could lead to further issues that we spoke about earlier in the blog. 

Can you move a broken toe?

Although it may be possible to move or walk on a broken toe, it should still be avoided to prevent a prolonged healing time and potentially further injuries. 

Should you soak a broken toe in warm water?

No, if your toe is broken, heat applied to the area could make the pain worse. The heat will help to increase blood flow which could lead to further swelling and increased pain. 

*This blog contains general information about medical conditions and is not advice. You must not rely upon the information in this blog as medical advice. Medical advice should always be sought from an appropriately qualified podiatrist such as ourselves.