A broken toe is typically recognized right away due to intense pain and a popping or cracking sound present as the small bone in the toe breaks. Most cases of broken toes are a result of dropping a heavy object on the toe. Other causes include a missed step, stubbing the toe or intensified stress fractures due to recurrent impact on hard surfaces can lead to a broken toe.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Once a bone in the toes break, the pain can occur immediately and intense. The broken toe will swell and bruise. In case the damage is traumatic, the toe might appear deformed or crooked. In most cases, a broken toe can cause inability to walk normally as well as pain while walking or even putting on shoes.
When to consult a doctor
Any traumatic injury to the toe or crushing injury must be carefully assessed by a doctor. In case the individual experiences numbness or tingling sensation, an open wound or there is bleeding, seek immediate medical attention.
If there is an evident deformity, the doctor will request an X-ray to determine if the bone requires any special treatment such as a cast or splint. Most cases of broken toes are managed with a miniature-sized splint or buddy taping where the broken toe is fastened to the toe next to it to maintain stability and properly aligned while it heals.
Treatment for a broken toe
It is important to note that most cases of a broken toe can be managed at home which includes rest, application of ice and elevation. While the bone heals, it is vital that the individual should avoid walking or putting any pressure on the joint.
Apply an ice pack over the affected toe several times in a day at 20 minutes for each session. The affected foot should be elevated to reduce the swelling in the foot. A shoe with a stiff sole might be recommended to prevent movement of the joint while the individual is walking. In addition, the doctor can be consulted regarding the use of over-the-counter pain medications.
Possible complications of a broken toe
The usual complication of a broken toe includes trauma to the toenail of the affected toe. The toenail might become discolored, turn black and blue or even fall out. The toenail usually grows back normally, but it is best to consult a podiatrist as it heals. The podiatrist can help avoid the development of ingrown toenails or any infection involving the nail bed as the toe heals. In case blood gathers beneath the nail, the podiatrist will create a small-sized hole in the nail to allow the blood to escape.
Time frame for healing
Once the buddy taping or splint is removed, it is vital to start gentle stretching and range of motion exercises for the affected toe. The objective of the exercise is to restore the normal range of motion.