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What Should I Do for a Broken Toe?

by Dr. Sharon Orrange on March 12, 2014 at 11:19 am

Who knew so many people fracture their toes, but I get this question a few times a month.

A toe fracture can be either partial or complete. Fractures of the toe bones may or may not include the joints that separate the bones. Most of the time you can deal with toe fractures at home, as doctors are not of much help. Most toe fractures are from a direct hit (trauma) to the toe or an indirect trauma like forcefully pivoting on a planted foot.

Here’s what to expect, so there are no surprises:

  • Severe pain over the fracture site at the time of injury that may persist for an extend period of time. Yes, you may still have a sore toe weeks to months later.
  • Pain, tenderness, inflammation, or bruising over the fracture site.
  • If there is a visible deformity, it may be a displaced fracture and you should touch base with your doctor if that’s true.
  • Toe fractures usually heal within 4 to 6 weeks.

What should you do?

  • Treatment first involves the use of ice and medicine to reduce pain and inflammation. Ice for 10-15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours after the injury and take ibuprofen for pain and swelling.
  • Movement of the fractured toe should be limited for a period of time to allow for healing, usually about 4 weeks. This is done by buddy taping. Wrap tape around the injured toe and the toe next to it. This helps keep your toe stable. Place a small wad of cotton between your toes to prevent tissues from becoming too moist.
  • Think about wearing a hard-soled shoe to minimize stress on the healing bone.

Seek care if . . .

The fracture is severely displaced or if the bone pushes through the skin (I’m hoping bone poking through skin drives folks to their doctor). If you have pain, numbness or coldness in the affected foot that could mean damage to the blood vessels, and signs of infection like pain, redness, and fever should also bring you to the doctor.

Dr O.

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