Everyone has felt the intense pain of a stubbed toe. The pain, even though it lasts for a couple seconds or more can be excruciating until it subsides.
You might feel a little throbbing pain for a few hours before the pain goes away completely.
All of this is normal. However, if the pain continues and you feel it as you walk, or you notice substantial reddish or purplish discoloration, you might have fractured your big toe.
Signs of a Broken or Fractured Toe
Distinguishing between a fractured big toe and pain from a stubbed toe can be difficult for most people. However, there are some easy-to-spot signs and symptoms of a broken big toe. Here’s what you need to watch out for.
Level of Pain
One of the first, and ironically the best, indication of a fractured big toe is the level of pain you feel.
- Persistent pain, difficulty in walking, or excruciating pain when you put weight on your toe, and rapid swelling are all indications that you might have suffered a fracture.
- It is wise to consult with a foot and ankle specialist for a medical assessment. Ignoring the condition can lead to other complications like infections or permanent deformity.
Discoloration and Swelling
Other common indicators of a fracture include discoloration (reddish or purplish) of the big toe. While some discoloration might occur even after you have stubbed your toe, it generally disappears after a day.
In the case of a fractured big toe, discoloration can extend for days and spread to other areas of the foot. Often, the discoloration will be deeper than the discoloration you may normally experience as a result of bruises.
Swelling is another common indicator of a fracture. If you notice a difference in the shape of your big toe – if it is stuck in an odd position, if it is crooked or pointed upwards or downwards, it could be due to a fracture.
When Should You See a Podiatrist?
As mentioned above, persistent pain which lasts for days, deepening discoloration which has spread to other parts, and inability to walk or put weight on the big toe are indications of a fracture.
If you experience any or all these symptoms, it is best to consult with a professional foot and ankle specialist to prevent the situation from exacerbating.
After a complete examination, which will include an x-ray, if your podiatrist suspects a fracture, the big toe will be secured with a splint to keep it in a fixed position. You will be told to rest, so the big toe is not placed under any undue stress.
If, however, the fracture is serious, with either the joint being seriously compromised or the toe bone(s) severely displaced, surgery might be recommended.
Recovering from a Broken Big Toe
If you have suffered a fracture of the big toe, you can expect the pain and swelling to continue for a few weeks.
Your doctor will advise you to rest your foot, and to avoid putting weight on the affected foot to promote faster healing and prevent further damage. You might have to use a walking cast until your doctor says you don’t need to use it anymore. It is best to avoid any kind of strenuous physical activity until your toe is completely healed.
No Time for Guessing
Any injury to your toes can be extremely painful. However, a distinction is necessary between an injury from stubbing and a fracture.
A fractured bone can cause excruciating pain, swelling, and discoloration. If any of the above symptoms don’t subside within a day or two, and if you suspect you have fractured your big toe, don’t second guess that gut feeling. Consult with a professional podiatrist and get your toe x-rayed.