Excruciating pain in one of your toes? Wondering whether you’ve broken it – and if you have – whether you should go to the hospital or a doctor or a podiatrist and what they’ll do?
Broken toes are more common than many people realise – and unfortunately, so is suspecting a broken toe, not doing anything about it, and then putting up with the consequences afterwards. While New Zealand tends to have a strong she’ll be right mentality, broken toes are not something that should be shrugged off in the hopes that the problem will just go away and be good as new.
Here’s the inside scoop about broken toes and what they really mean for you.
What does a broken toe feel like?
Broken toes feel painful, swollen and may have some purple bruising from the bleeding beneath the skin. You may get some numbness or tingling, have marked redness or streaking around the toe, and your toe may look crooked or out of place. Try standing with weight and pressure on your forefoot and toes at least a few hours after the pain begins. Can you do so comfortably or are you unable to bear weight without significant pain on the toe? If it’s the latter, it very well could be broken. If it’s the former, don’t rule out the break just yet – some are more subtle than others!
How can toes become broken?
The most common ways people tend to break their toes are from stubbing it, dropping something on it, and during contact sports – particularly falls and tackles.
Should I see someone for my broken toe? Who?
Yes, you should. Every toe bone break is different – some are more severe than others, and there are special considerations based on which toe you’ve broken and what kind of a break it is, as well as your physical health and medical conditions.
It’s important that your feet are also checked for circulation and nerve damage, skin injuries and any resultant wounds, as well as any injuries to any bones, joints, ligaments and tendons around the area. Often, breaks don’t happen on their own, and you’ll need to address any related problems too if you’re going to recover effectively.
Your podiatrist should be the first port of call due to their comprehensive knowledge of the feet. They’ll be able to assess your toe against other causes of toe pain to get a clearer diagnosis. They can also refer you for an x-ray to confirm the break.
Can I treat my broken toe at home myself?
You can get some temporary pain relief at home by using ice to help reduce the swelling, keeping your foot elevated, removing any weight and pressure from the foot, changing to open-toed footwear, and using non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like nurofen. But you still need to see your podiatrist as quickly as possible. When broken toes aren’t allowed to heal properly or in the right position, this can have damaging consequences for you further down the line, from a prematurely arthritic joint to crooked toes, painful high-pressure areas or altered gait. At its worst, you may end up needing surgery – which may have been preventable. This is why it’s always best to get help early.
How are broken toes treated?
If you have a straightforward break where the bone is still well aligned, then your treatment may involve anything from ‘buddy taping’ the toe to act as a splint and then offloading the area, to using a moon boot for full immobilisation. You may need to change your footwear while your toe heals to give it adequate space and avoid harmful pressure.
Here at Perform Podiatry, we understand that an effective treatment plan is far more complex than saying don’t walk on this foot for the next four to six weeks. Every treatment plan is made following a comprehensive assessment, and importantly, getting to know you, your work and life situation, and discussing which treatment options will be best for you under your circumstances.
Experienced podiatrists in Remuera, Auckland
If you have pain in your forefoot and you’re worried that you’ve broken a toe or sustained another injury, our experienced podiatry team is here to help. We’re located in the One Health building on Remuera Road, with x-ray services available within our building if needed.