By Dr. Roman Burk
When you stub your toe or drop a weight on it at the gym, it’s hard to say what comes first — the pain or the swearing! And, if the toe bone is broken, it’s hard to believe how much a small bone can hurt. You’ve probably heard that there’s nothing you can do about a broken toe. However, this is simply not true. Many toe fractures only require the simple treatment of “buddy” splinting and a wide stable shoe. But, other toe fractures require manipulation or even surgery. Anyone with a broken toe should realize that if the toe heals in the wrong alignment, the result can be chronic foot pain, hammertoes, arthritis, infection, or corns. This is why your toe fracture needs to be evaluated. Why take the chance of long-term deformity or pain?
How Do You Know if Your Toe is Broken?
Your big toe has two bones, and each of your other toes has three. If one or more of these bones is fractured, you will have one or more of the following symptoms in your toe.
- Pain and tenderness.
- Pain when walking or putting weight on your foot.
- Stiffness and swelling.
- Numbness, coldness, or tingling.
- Redness or bruising.
- Blue or gray skin.
- Pain beneath your toenail (possible blood buildup under the nail).
Symptoms of a Serious Break
- Broken bone protruding from your skin.
- Bent or crooked toe
- An open wound.
Treatment for a Minor Break
First, your podiatrist will check for tenderness and broken skin around your affected toe. Your nerves and blood flow will also be tested. If your podiatrist thinks the toe is broken, you’ll get an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis. The broken toe will heal better if it’s kept from bending too much. To accomplish this, your podiatrist will use the buddy tape system. This involves taping the broken toe to the toe next to it (it’s “buddy”). You may also be given a stiff-bottomed shoe that also helps keep your toe from bending and allows room for swelling.
Treatment for a More Severe Break
If the toe bone is broken all the way through and a section(s) of the bone has moved, it will need to be realigned. After a numbing injection, your podiatrist will manipulate the bone sections to knit them back together. You may get a cast to keep the bone pieces in place. If you have an open wound, you may need antibiotics and a tetanus shot. If there is blood trapped under your toenail, your podiatrist will attempt to drain it. If this doesn’t work, the nail may need to be completely removed. For a catastrophic break, surgery may be necessary to insert pins or screws to hold the bones in place.
See Your Podiatrist
If you think your toe might be broken, don’t risk more serious problems by ignoring it or trying to treat it yourself. Your best bet is a diagnosis by one of our professionals followed by the appropriate treatment. Call 208-855-5955 or request an appointment online.