It is no wonder stubbing a toe feels the same as breaking one, considering the feet are densely packed with nerve endings. In the midst of the sharp pain, it may be difficult to decipher if a toe needs medical attention, but our Bethesda MD podiatrist has some signs to look for.
Initially, determining the level of damage may be difficult. One of the few early signs of breakage depends on if a decipherable “crack” was heard when the foot was hit. The toe will hurt equally badly for a stub or break in the beginning, but a break will continue to hurt hours later. The next day, one can draw a more distinct conclusion. A broken toe may be detected by the following—
Unfortunately, even if a toe is broken, sometimes even doctors are limited in their options. An immediate run to the emergency room is often not recommended in these cases, unless the pain is extreme or the toe is clearly severed. Only a broken big toe can be set in a cast. The rest of the toes will need to be “buddy taped” to the next biggest toe to be reset and heal correctly. Extreme breaks, however, may qualify for surgery.
Color change in a toe nail is common and can happen with breaks or with stubs. If the coloring below the nail becomes dark, it is likely the nail will fall off. This is normal as well, and a new nail will grow back in time.
In the meantime, icing the area of injury can bring relief. Ideally, ice the area for 15-20 minutes every 1-2 hours. Elevation is also recommended to minimize swelling and pain, and do not put weight or pressure on your hurt toe. Taking over-the-counter pain medications may also bring temporary relief. A broken toe may take up to ten weeks to heal, so patience and a commitment to wearing closed-toe, protective shoes is important. High heels do not count, as the positioning and pressure on the toes will likely cause further stress.
Our Bethesda podiatrist knows it’s not fun to stub or break a toe! Feel free to call our Bethesda office if you have further questions or concerns.
The information provided in this article is not meant to be medical advice and is for educational purposes only. If you would like to learn more about this and other topics related to podiatry, feel free to contact The Podiatry Center, with a convenient podiatry office location near Bethesda MD, by clicking here or by calling 301.656.6055.