by Dr. Roman Burk
Year after year, I hear patients repeat the same refrain, “I’ve always been told there is no treatment for broken toes.” While this is a commonly held belief, it is actually completely false.
In fact, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons warns, you should never underestimate an injured or broken toe.
Contrary to popular belief, if you think your toe is broken, the first step you should take is to make an appointment with your local foot and ankle specialist. They can help you to evaluate your level of pain, diagnose potential problems, and even take x-rays in the office to verify fractures.
Once a fracture is confirmed, the podiatrist can fit you with a splint, surgical shoe, or even a walking boot if the injury is quite serious. Whatever the treatment course, you will leave the office feeling a little better and rest a little easier knowing you won’t have to worry about potential long-term side effects of improperly treated toe fractures.
When broken toes aren’t properly treated complications can occur. The four most common are as follows:
- Toe Deformity. An untreated toe fracture can lead to joint damage, chronic swelling, and a displacement of the broken bone. These conditions can cause a toe deformity. While a toe deformity may seem like a simple cosmetic nuisance it can also result in pain and make it difficult to wear shoes.
- Osteoarthritis. If the fracture involved the joint, left untreated it can lead to osteoarthritis, resulting in chronic pain, swelling, and degenerative joint changes. If you’ve ever heard someone say their joints clue them into changing weather, they probably are suffering from osteoarthritis, and you don’t want to join their club.
- Non-Healing Fracture. When a broken toe isn’t properly treated and is coupled with other medical issues like diabetes, poor circulation, and/or osteoporosis, the fracture can turn into a non-healing fracture. This means it stays in a persistently unstable state and will not heal. Once a fracture becomes non-healing it can be very difficult to treat and involves chronic pain, sometimes necessitating amputation.
- Sausage Toe. As you may be able to guess from the name, sausage toe is chronically red and swollen, chronically painful, and not so pleasing to look at.
The simplest way to prevent these complications is to seek early and adequate treatment of any injury involving your toes.
Your podiatrist can help get you on the road to recovery. Broken bones typically take about six weeks to heal. But stress fractures take less. With the help of a specialist, you’ll know what type of fracture you’re dealing with. Doctors sometimes refer to the first few days of bone healing as “the golden period” because they are so critical to recovery. This is why seeking medical attention as soon as possible is key. You don’t want to squander this important period. The first week or two after a toe fracture, immobilization (with “buddy taping,” splint, or surgical shoe) and elevation will kick off the healing process. However, the rest of the treatment plan can vary based on the nuances of your injury. Proving, not only is there a treatment for broken toes…there are many treatments.
If you or a loved one is experiencing toe pain that you believe may be the result of a fracture, please give us a call. Our foot and ankle doctors are board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery. Call 208-855-5955 or request an appointment online.