Each toe is made up of two or three small bones. These bones are small and fragile. They can break after you stub your toe or drop something heavy on it.
A broken bone is also called a fracture.
Broken toes are a common injury. The fracture is most often minor and can be taken care of at home.
Severe injuries include breaks that cause the toe to be crooked, breaks that cause an open wound, or injuries that involve the big toe. If you have a severe injury, you should seek medical help.
Injuries that involve the big toe may need a cast or splint to heal. In rare cases, tiny pieces of bone can break off and keep the bone from healing properly. In this case, you may need surgery.
Symptoms of a broken toe include:
If your toe is crooked after the injury, the bone may be out of place and need to be straightened in order to heal properly. This may be done either with or without surgery.
Most broken toes will heal on their own with proper care at home. It can take up to 4 - 6 weeks for complete healing. Pain and swelling will go away within a few days to a week.
If something was dropped on the toe, the area under the toenail can bruise. This will go away in time with nail growth. If there is blood until the nail, it may be removed to reduce pain.
Follow these steps for the first few days or weeks after your injury:
For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn). You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
You may also take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain relief. If you have liver disease,talk with your health care provider before using it.
Do not take more than the amount recommended on the bottle or by your health care provider.
Your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication if needed.
Slowly increase the amount of walking each day. You can return to normal activity once the swelling has gone down and you can wear a stable and protective shoe.
There may be some soreness and stiffness when you walk. This will go away once the muscles in your toe begin to stretch and strengthen.
Ice your toe after activity if there is any pain.
More severe injuries that require casting, reduction, or surgery to fix them will need a longer time to heal, up to 6 - 8 weeks.
Follow up with your doctor 1 - 2 weeks after your injury. Based on your injury, your doctor may want to see you more than one time.
Call the doctor if you have:
Toe fracture. In: Buttaravoli: Minor Emergencies. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 133.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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