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Family Foot & Ankle

How to Tell if a Toe is Broken (and What to Do About It)

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Toes may be little, but they can produce massive pain when they get injured. If you’ve ever dropped something heavy on your foot, or smacked a toe into table leg, you probably know the feeling well.

Severe toe injuries may not always be the easiest problems to diagnose on your own. It hurts, obviously, but how do you know if your toe is broken, or if it’s just a severe sprain? And does it make a difference?

Broken toe

Ultimately, it may take a professional examination to know for sure, but there are some signs that tend to indicate a break more often than not. Breaks tend to be more painful than sprains, with greater swelling and (especially) more dark discoloration and bruising. If the toe looks deformed or out of place, that’s a pretty good sign you’re dealing with a break, too.

Any time pain is severe, you have trouble walking, or you just don’t see any improvement after a couple of days, there’s no reason to risk it—get it checked out. A lot of people think there’s nothing that can be done for a broken toe, but that’s just not true!

Obviously, you’ll want to stay off your feet as much as possible to give the toe a chance to heal. Depending on the location and severity of the break, we may also provide additional care. This can include:

  • “Buddy taping” a broken toe to a healthy neighbor.
  • Manually repositioning a displaced toe under local anesthetic. This is called “reduction,” and it usually does not require any incisions.
  • Bandaging or casting a toe so that bones remain in place during the healing process.
  • Prescribing a walking boot or stiff-bottomed shoe to protect the toe and prevent it from flexing during the healing process.
  • Surgery. This is usually only needed for the most severe injuries.

 

Most broken toes will heal well without complication in about six weeks or so. That said, a broken toe that heals improperly can lead to chronic pain, post-traumatic arthritis, and a greater chance for re-injury, so you should always take treatment seriously. If you think your toe might be broken, please see the lower limb specialists at Family Foot & Ankle Center right away! Set up an appointment at one of our Cincinnati area offices by calling (888) 689-3317 today.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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