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Broken Toes

You stubbed your toe against the door jam, the table leg, the bed post, you name it, it hurts! Stubbed toes are one of the more annoying injuries that can happen to the foot. This isn’t always the most serious injury and often fits into the pesky injury category, but there are some reasons to seek medical attention.

Where and when should I seek treatment?

Broken Toe

This all too common injury may not seem like much, but there are times when you should get it evaluated. If you stub your toe hard enough, you can break the bone. If there is an open wound, nail involvement or blood under the nail, or if the toe is dislocated and significantly out of place, it is prudent to seek urgent medical care for those injuries. If the toe isn’t deformed, there is no blood or nail involvement, a call to your podiatrist’s office will suffice. Most offices leave space in the schedule to accommodate such situations and will make an appointment in 1-3 business days. You must remember that the emergency department may not be the most cost efficient way to treat a toe that is suspected to be broken, but isn’t serious enough for urgent care.

What are the treatment options?

First of all, xrays can determine the extent of the injury. Is there a break in the bone, or is it a “bone bruise” (medical term for, ‘you hurt it bad, but there isn’t evidence of a break’)? If there is an urgent matter, draining the blood under the nail, and removing the nail, may be necessary along with cleaning any wound that may be present. As seen in the pictures here, “buddy taping” one toe to the next is one way to splint the toe and prevent further injury during the healing process. A flat “surgical” shoe may be required to accommodate the increased size of the toes or bandage. A new product may help pad the toe, to alleviate pressure induced discomfort.

How long will it take to heal?

Fractures take about 6-8 weeks to heal in most adults. Although patience is required, simply wearing your everyday shoes is treatment enough for most simple toe fractures. Rarely does a broken toe need to be surgically repaired. Yet, if the fracture is displaced, or there is an opening in the skin it may require surgery, which could add multiple weeks to the healing time, depending on how quick the toe is treated surgically.

Walking Cast

When will the swelling go down?

One of the more frustrating aspects of stubbing the toe, or breaking the bone is the time it takes for the swelling to decrease. The way the toes are built, the toe can handle only about 1-2ml or a ¼ teaspoon of extra fluid. The fluid takes a significant amount of time to dissipate (6-18 weeks) because the body doesn’t have the way of ridding the toe of the fluid and the fluid lingers.

As with any injury, don’t neglect it, get it looked at by a healthcare professional.