A stubbed toe can make your eyes water and is likely to induce a few choice words. There’s no doubt it’s a painful experience. But how do you know if you’ve broken your toe or just bruised it? This article will help you tell the difference and determine whether a trip to the doctor or ER is necessary.
Quickcare or ER?
There are only a few reasons broken toe treatment should be handled immediately in the ER:
- An obvious deformity.
- Broken skin and bleeding near the site of the fracture.
- Tingling, numb, cold or discolored toe.
Diagnosing a Broken Toe
The doctor will want to ask you a few questions about how the injury happened and the symptoms you’re having. They will also want to perform a physical exam to look for signs of a broken bone. If a break is suspected, an X-ray of the toe bones will be ordered to confirm the diagnosis. Your doctor should consider a fracture extending into the foot involving a metatarsal bone. Once confirmed, the doctor will recommend treatment for a broken toe that will immobilize the digit and allow time to heal.
What Will the Doctor Ask?
The doctor will want to know what type of trauma the toe experienced. This will help to determine if it was something likely to cause a break. They will also probably ask what you heard when the injury happened. Often, people will hear a popping sound when a bone is broken. An common injury while playing football on artificial turf is called “turf toe.” This is actually a sprain of the joint within the big toe.
The doctor will ask you to describe the pain you’re having. Throbbing pain is often a sign that a toe might be have a fracture. They will want to know where the pain is coming from. With a fracture, the pain is felt right at the break. On the other hand, a sprain is experienced as more generalized pain.
What Will Your Doctor Look for?
During the examination of the foot, the doctor will look for bruising, other color change or swelling due to injury. They will also check if the toe is resting at an unnatural angle. This could indicate dislocation due to a break.
The doctor will also want to see what happens when you wiggle your toes. They are looking for a couple of things by doing so. First, if there’s swelling, it could make the toe stiff and difficult to move. Also, a broken bone can sometimes cause nerve damage, which will result in an inability to wiggle the toes. Pain at the top of the foot may indicate a more serious injury called a Lisfranc fracture.
What Is the Typical Broken Toe Treatment?
The type of treatment for broken toe used will generally depend on the severity and location of the fracture. Typically, what to do for a broken toe involves whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the bone heals in its original position. For example, broken pinky toe treatment characteristically requires your physician to numb the toe and pull on it so that it straightens out. An open fracture can sometimes require wound care and, possibly, antibiotics or a tetanus shot.
With a hairline or stable fracture, minimal broken toe treatment is required. Typically, all that’s required for this type of break is taping the toe to the one next to it. This is called buddy taping, and it immobilizes the toe enough for it to heal properly. A walking boot might also be used to minimize mobility and pain.
A compound fracture generally requires a more involved broken toe treatment. When the bone is displaced during the break, it will first need to be reduced. With this procedure, traction is applied to return the pieces of bone back to their original positions. Once this has been done, a cast may be applied to keep the bones in place while healing. Occasionally, with a particularly severe break, pins may need to be surgically implanted during the healing process.
Broken Toe Treatment Duration/Recovery Time
It typically takes a broken toe treatment about six weeks to allow the bone to mend. A simple fracture will usually heal without complications. A more complex fracture, however, may have lasting effects. When a joint is included in the fracture, it’s possible to develop arthritis, stiffness, pain, and perhaps a deformity.
A follow up should be scheduled, according to doctor’s instructions, to ensure that the broken toe treatment has been effective. Sometimes, complications may develop. In that case, it’s important to speak to the doctor about moving up the appointment.
General Information about Broken Toe
Although the human foot has five toes, they are made up of a total of 14 phalanx bones. The big toe contains two bones, and the other four toes have three bones each. A broken toe is diagnosed when any one of these phalanges is fractured.
There are several ways that a toe can be broken. It usually occurs due to some sort of injury or trauma to the foot. An impact fracture can result from a toe being stubbed or from a heavy object being dropped on the foot. A stress fracture occurs when a toe breaks due to prolonged or repetitive movements, as would occur during sports activities.
The symptoms experienced due to a broken toe can vary. With a minor break, there might be pain, swelling, and stiffness that occur immediately following the injury. Over time, light to moderate bruising might develop. Most broken toes involve some level of walking difficulty. With some fractures, there might even be a deformity of the toe or foot.
A more serious break, such as a compound fracture, can result in the bone protruding through the skin. There might also be damage to the nail involved. Either of these may produce a moderate amount of bleeding that requires medical attention.
If you experience any of the symptoms of a broken toe, it’s important for you to seek medical care. Some breaks can be extremely serious and may not heal properly unless appropriate broken toe treatment is given. Once treated, you must also check daily for signs that it’s not healing properly. These steps may prevent you from suffering permanent, disfiguring damage.