Do you need to treat a fractured toe bone? Have you ever stubbed your toe and been told not to worry about it because “nothing can be done about a broken toe”? If so, you have been given horrible advice. All toe fractures can be treated and should, in fact, always be treated. A broken toe that is not treated can lead to long-term pain and swelling. If the fracture is near a joint it can lead to arthritis. Thus, it is imperative that every injured toe be evaluated for a fracture. Make an appointment to see us in our Seattle office as soon as possible after you stub your toe or suffer any other toe injury. Let our receptionist know that you may have broken your toe and she will get you in right away – usually on the same day.
Video: How to Treat a Broken Toe
What we will do for you
First, we will likely take an x-ray to evaluate the seriousness of the injury. If a fracture is present we will make sure the toe is in the correct position to heal properly. We will usually immobilize your toe using a special boot or shoe so that the toe will heal properly and so that you can move around without pain. We may also have you wear a special splint to hold the toe straight. On occasion, the fracture is not aligned correctly and we will need to gently manipulate the bone back in place (we will always numb your toe first so that this process is painless). On very rare occasions the fracture is bad enough that surgery is required to prevent problems such as arthritis down the road. Our goal is to treat your injury in the most effective, conservative and painless way possible.
What you should do
Immediately after the injury, ice your foot alternating 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off. You should avoid bearing weight on the foot until after the injured toe is evaluated. Stay off your foot as much as possible. If you must move around, use crutches if you can. If crutches are not available, use a cane and keep your weight on your heel. Most important, let us evaluate your toe as soon as possible. If go to an emergency room and x-rays show a fracture, don’t accept the advice to “just tape your toes together”. See a podiatrist for another opinion. This may all seem like overkill for “just a broken toe”, but every week we see patients in our office who have suffered pain for months and even years because a broken toe was not treated properly. If you think you may have a toe fracture, contact us for an appointment in our convenient Seattle office.
Home Treatment of Broken Toes
We don’t recommend home treatment of broken or stubbed toes. An x-ray should be taken to ensure that the bones are not misaligned. If, however, you absolutely cannot see a doctor right away and think you have a broken toe, you must immobilize the toe. The only way to do that effectively is with a walking boot. You will need a tall walking boot like the one shown, rather than a short boot, because the tall walking boot better immobilizes the the muscles that start in your leg and insert into your toes. You can purchase walking boots here. Even if you get the boot, see a podiatrist as soon as you can.
If you are going to wear a walking boot and want to avoid back pain, you must make sure that you are wearing a shoe on the other foot that keeps you even with the side wearing the boot. We recommend using an “Even-up” device which straps onto your other shoe to keep you as even as possible. If you choose not to use an Even-up, then use a heel lift in the other shoe to keep you as even as possible.
Another injury that can occur when you stub your toe is a “dislocated toe”. In this situation the bone does not necessarily break, but the toe bones move out of place at the joint. You may see that the toe is abnormally sticking out to the side or up.
Dislocated toes must be treated professionally and if you think you many have dislocated your toe, then make an appointment to see us in our Seattle foot clinic right away.
We will first take x-rays. If the toe is dislocated, in most cases we will numb your toe so you feel no pain and then gently redirect it back into place. In the case of severe dislocations, surgery may be required.
When a toe is dislocated, the ligaments that hold the toe bone in place at the joint are torn. In order to allow those ligaments to heal you will need to wear a walking boot for several weeks.