A badly stubbed or otherwise traumatized toe can be a real showstopper. You wanted to get out and enjoy the benefits of exercise, but an unfortunate collision with the coffee table tripped you up in your very own living room.
For some of the more determined among us, there is likely the temptation of pushing through the pain of a hurting toe. Is it wise to do so, though?
That’s the question that must be asked for any kind of trauma or sports injury. The answer largely depends on the situation, and we’re always here to provide expert advice.
Is Your Toe Broken?
Just because your toe is in a lot of pain from a bad whack does not necessarily mean you have a toe fracture. In some cases, what may feel like a broken toe turns out to be a sprain instead, and it will tend to improve within a few days.
On the other hand, a stubbed toe can also be a more complicated injury than it first appears.
It is wise to be cautious and mindful of your toe’s condition immediately following any painful trauma. (Of course, the pain will likely keep you from thinking about much else for a while.)
Postpone your immediate exercise plans for the time being and keep an eye on your toe. Here are some signs that your toe might not just be badly stubbed, but broken as well:
- Pain continues to be extreme following the injury, and has not lessened much after a couple days.
- The toe is stiff and swollen.
- The toe is warmer to the touch than other toes.
- It is difficult to walk on the toe.
- Trying to put on shoes can become an excruciating ordeal.
- The toenail is split or bleeding is coming from beneath it (which can indicate a fracture beneath the nail).
- The toe looks awkwardly bent or deformed in any way.
- Skin tone has changed to a bluish or grayish color.
Having any of the above symptoms is plenty enough reason to give us a call and let us know what’s going on. In fact, you should never feel discouraged to reach out if you have any questions or uncertainties about your condition. We are always happy to help, and it’s much better to find out something isn’t as bad as it seems than to unknowingly make a bad situation worse.
Depending on the information you provide us, we might recommend you come in for a closer physical evaluation of your toe. If necessary, we may perform an X-ray to confirm whether the toe has been fractured or not.
Can I Still Run with a Broken Toe?
It’s a common belief that you can’t really treat a broken toe. And if that’s the case, why not just bear through it until it heals on its own?
But this is not the case. Please do not try to run on a broken toe – at least until it has been properly evaluated and has been treated to a point where you are cleared for such activities.
Trying to run or exercise with a broken toe – even if it’s just the smallest toe – will add stress to the injury. This can easily cause further damage and complicate recovery.
Reducing stress on the toe as it recovers will also reduce your risk of more chronic complications in the future. A broken toe that is left untreated or does not heal properly is more likely to develop osteoarthritis as you age, which can be even more of a hindrance to your activity.
So What Do We Do if the Toe is Broken?
The good news is that, even if a broken toe requires attention, it typically doesn’t take a lot of effort to fix. The need for surgery to fix a broken toe is very rare.
We must determine whether any parts of the bone have shifted in the break. If they have, we will likely need to manipulate them back into their proper places. This is called “reduction,” and we can frequently set the bones properly from the outside. There is rarely need to surgically open the toe to directly manipulate the bones.
When the bones are properly set, we will then immobilize the toe to give it the best chance to rest and heal. There are several methods for doing this:
- In minor cases, we may use “buddy taping” – taping the toe to its neighbor – for effective immobilization.
- If there are some further concerns, we may also provide a post-surgical shoe for added protection and support. These shoes possess a stiff bottom to keep the toe from moving, but are also much easier to put on than normal shoes.
- In more severe cases, we may recommend a walking cast for fuller immobilization.
A broken toe typically takes 4-6 weeks to heal. You will likely be asked to rest as well as maintain your cast and/or taping, but these recommendations can gradually be lessened or removed based on the progress of your recovery and our recommendations.
While resting, we may recommend icing your foot and keeping it elevated above the level of your heart to reduce pain and swelling. Medications might also be prescribed or recommended.
In some cases, we might also recommend a course of laser therapy to help further lessen pain, reduce inflammation, and accelerate overall recovery.
Don’t Go On an Injured Toe
At least not immediately! Give yourself time to make sure your toe is OK first, and contact us whenever you have any concerns whatsoever.