What is a toe fracture?
A toe fracture is a break or crack in one or more of the bones in your toe. It may be just a bend or small crack in the bone, or the bone may break into pieces or shatter. You may have a break in several places or the break may be in a joint between the toes. Some fractures may stick out through the skin.
What is the cause?
A broken toe is usually caused by twisting your foot or a direct hitâ€”like when you kick a hard object or something falls on your toe. A fracture may also be the result of a medical condition that causes weak or brittle bones.
If you play a sport where you don’t wear supportive shoes, such as martial arts, ballet, or gymnastics, you have a greater risk for toe injuries.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
- Pain, swelling, bruising, or tenderness that happens right after the injury
- Pain when the injured area is touched or that keeps you from putting weight on your toe
- A toe that is cold, pale, or numb
- Bleeding under the toenail
- Loss of a toenail
- A change in the shape of the toe
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and how the injury happened. Your provider will examine you. Tests may include:
- X-rays of the toe
- CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the bones
- MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the bones
How is it treated?
The treatment depends on the type of fracture.
- If you have an open wound with the fracture, you may need treatment to control bleeding or prevent infection.
- Usually the broken toe is taped to the toe next to it while it heals.
- In rare cases surgery or a walking cast is needed to fix the broken bone.
- If you have a cast, make sure the cast does not get wet. Cover the cast with plastic when you bathe. Avoid scratching the skin around the cast or poking things down between the cast and your skin. This could cause an infection.
- Your provider will tell you how much weight you can put on your foot, if any. Use crutches, a knee walker, or a cane as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Your provider may advise you to wear stiff-soled shoes or give you a special boot.
With treatment, broken toes take up to 6 weeks to heal. You may need to do special exercises to help your toe get stronger and more flexible. Ask your healthcare provider about this.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Also:
- To keep swelling down and help relieve pain, your healthcare provider may tell you to:
- Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time for the first day or two after the injury.
- Keep the injured foot up on pillows when you sit or lie down.
- Take pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take this medicine for more than 10 days.
- If your toenail is loose but has not fallen off, keep a bandage around it. Tell your healthcare provider if the toenail falls off.
Ask your healthcare provider:
- How and when you will hear your test results
- How long it will take to recover
- What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
- How to take care of yourself at home
- What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
How can I help prevent a toe fracture?
Most broken toes are caused by accidents that are not easy to prevent. However, shoes that fit well and give good support can help prevent injury.
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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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