Our toes expose themselves to a lot of punishment. They’re the first thing we stick out into the world when we take a step, after all, and being on the front lines can sometimes take a toll. Dropped objects, unexpected curbs, table legs and more can all be gunning for your feet, and the right impact at the wrong time can lead to painful broken toes.
Of the 26 bones in each foot, 19 consist of the toes and metatarsals, the long bones in the midfoot that connect the toes to the rest of the foot. These bones, like all others, can fracture in a couple different ways.
A stress fracture is a less severe, hairline break along a bone that is often the result of repetitive stress and overuse. For example, upping one’s running routine too intensely over a short period of time can cause more stress on the toe bones than they are currently conditioned to recover from, leading to weakness and cracks. If a stress fracture isn’t properly treated, the cracks can grow deeper and heal incorrectly.
A traumatic fracture is the kind most people tend to imagine when they hear “broken bone.” It’s a full fracture of a bone often caused by a direct impact. If the fracture has happened in such a way that part of the bone has changed position, it is referred to as a displaced traumatic fracture.
So, how can you tell the difference between a stress fracture and a traumatic toe fracture?
A stress fracture will grow painful during or following activity, then recede with some rest. There may be some swelling, but rarely bruising. A traumatic fracture will create sudden pain at the site of the break and continue for several hours before fading. The toe may look crooked or otherwise out of the ordinary, and bruising and swelling will develop the following day. Being able to walk on the injury is not a sign that it hasn’t broken.
Take Time for Treatment
Don’t believe when you hear that nothing can be done for broken toes. An untreated broken toe or a broken toe that heals incorrectly can lead to problems in the future such as chronic pain, arthritis, or a deformity in the bone structure that inhibits movement.
Until you are able to see us at Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper, keep weight off the affected foot and apply ice for up to 20 minutes at a time to reduce swelling. A pain reliever such as ibuprofen can help with pain as well. If you must wear a shoe, opt for a wide shoe with a thick, supportive sole.
A full examination of the foot will be conducted to pinpoint the location of the injury and any potential risk factors. Knowing what you were doing at the time of the injury can also be a big help in diagnosing it.
Rest is the foundation of any fracture recovery. You will have to stay away from activities that place stress on the foot until you are cleared to return. As the condition of the bone improves, more and more strenuous activity will likely be permitted.
Realignment of the bones may be necessary, and it will have to be immobilized using tape or a splint as it heals. If the fracture is particularly severe, surgery may be needed to repair the bone. This may involve pins or other devices to hold the fragments in place.
If you suspect a broken toe, walking it off is the worst thing you can do! Our office is behind Memorial Hospital and we are here to help. So, put your foot up and give us a call at (812) 481-7200. We’ll schedule you an appointment with Dr. Barry as quickly as we can.