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How To Treat A Broken Toe

Ouch! A broken toe is more excruciating than one might imagine. Just the thought of putting your foot down with a broken toe can be painful and taking a step may be impossible, depending on which toe is injured. If you have a fracture, getting it treated by a doctor at the earliest opportunity is crucial for it to heal properly. The before and after care are just as important to avoid any complications. First, you need to recognise the causes and symptoms of a broken toe.

Common Broken Toe Causes

Stubbing the toe is the most common cause of a fracture. This could happen while you’re running up a flight of stairs barefoot or while you’re stumbling around the dark barefoot. Wearing shoes or slippers lowers the risk of breaking your toe under these circumstances.

Dropping a heavy object on the toe is another common cause of a broken toe. In this case, shoes may not offer much protection, especially if the object is very heavy.

Repetitive movements performed over extended periods of time can also increase the risk of a fracture. This usually happens in certain types of sports and while performing certain manual tasks in the workplace. Although these types of activities usually cause repetitive stress injuries, in extreme cases they can result in a stress fracture or a hairline fracture.

Having osteoporosis increases the risk of this type of injury.

Broken Toe Symptoms

Pain and swelling are the first symptoms you will notice immediately after badly injuring a toe. After a while, the area may start to turn a faint bluish colour and start to stiffen. The pain, swelling and stiffness will make it difficult for you to walk. These initial symptoms are the same as soft tissue injury symptoms so pain and swelling by themselves do not necessarily signify a broken toe.

If the toe looks bent or deformed or it’s sticking out at an unusual angle, chances are high the bone is fractured. Depending on how the fracture occurred, there may or may not be bleeding.

Regardless of whether the toe looks deformed it is always advisable to get it checked by a doctor to confirm the diagnosis as fractures do not always have visible symptoms.

First-Aid For A Broken Toe

Getting a proper medical checkup is important, but it could take you some time to get to an appointment. This could be a few hours or a few days depending on where you are and whether you have somebody to take you. Meanwhile, there are things you can do to reduce the pain and swelling.

  • Take an over-the-counter pain killer – This will help lessen the pain and throbbing in the area.
  • Follow the RICE protocol – RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is the standard procedure you should follow if you swelling. All of these steps will help to alleviate the pain and swelling around the injured area. Make sure you know the correct way to perform these four steps so you don’t cause any more damage.
  • Stay off your feet as much as possible – It will be painful to walk. Don’t try to be heroic and ‘get on with things’. Besides being painful, you could make the injury worse.
  • Buddy tape the toe if necessary – Buddy taping involves taping the injured toe to the adjacent toe or toes fairly tightly but not too tightly. The uninjured ‘buddy’ toes act as splints that hold the deformed toe in place. This is a temporary measure that will help till you get to the doctor.

When To See A Doctor For A Broken Toe

Getting a proper diagnosis should be a priority if your symptoms indicate you may have a broken toe.

If you have the following symptoms, it is advisable to get to the hospital’s accident and emergency department as quickly as possible:

  • Tingling sensation in the toes;
  • Numbness or loss of sensation in the toes;
  • The skin around the injury starts to turn blue or gray;
  • There is profuse bleeding;
  • You are in severe pain;
  • The injured toe is pointing at an awkward angle;
  • There is bruising or bleeding under the toenail;
  • The bone is exposed and jutting out of your toe;
  • There was a popping, grinding or snapping noise at the time of the accident;

Medical Treatment For A Broken Toe

A medical professional will decide on the best treatment for your toe after doing a thorough diagnosis to determine the location and severity of the injury. An X-Ray is the most common diagnostic test done to determine if the toe is broken and to pinpoint the exact location and the severity of the fracture.

If the X-Ray shows you have a simple fracture in which one or more bones are broken but still lined up, the treatment may involve wearing a type of specialised footwear called a walking boot. This helps prevents unnecessary movement of the toes so that the bones can fuse back together properly without any surgical intervention.

If the bone is at an awkward angle, pressure may be used to straighten the bones. This is done after numbing the area. You may or may not have to wear a walking book after this procedure.

Surgery is usually required in the case of severe displacement or dislocation of the bone.

Aftercare To Help A Broken Toe To Heal Faster

The single best thing you can do to help your broken toe heal faster is to rest your foot as much as possible. Keep your foot raised while sitting and lying down.

Avoid standing or walking around if you don’t need to. If that’s unavoidable, try not to stand or walk for prolonged periods of time. Get off your feet every few minutes and put those toes up for a while.

Wear soft comfortable, wide footwear. Avoid wearing tight, pointed shoes or high-heels even after the pain has subsided and the dressing is taken off. These shoe styles put immense pressure on the toes, and could stress the fractured bone resulting in even more damage.

Do not participate in any fast-paced sports till the toe has healed completely.

Compensation For Broken Toe Injuries

If your toe was broken at work in an accident that was due to somebody else’s negligence, make sure you complete all the necessary formalities to protect your right to claim compensation. For more detailed advice on broken toe compensation claims please refer to our page here.

Disclaimer: Our accident claims solicitors process toe injury claims for our clients meaning they are experts in personal injury law but not necessarily medically trained. Because of this, the content on this page shouldn’t be substituted for advice from a medical professional. For help/advice on a toe injury you should call either the National Health Service on 111 or if it’s an emergency call 999.

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