Broken toe - self-care


Description

Each toe is made up of 2 or 3 small bones. These bones are small and fragile. They can break after you stub your toe or drop something heavy on it.

Alternative Names

Fractured toe - self-care; Broken bone - toe - self-care; Fracture - toe - self-care; Fracture phalanx - toe

More About Your Injury

Broken toes are a common injury. The fracture is most often treated without surgery and can be taken care of at home.

Severe injuries include:

If you have a severe injury, you should seek medical help.

Injuries that involve the big toe may need a cast or splint to heal. In rare cases, tiny pieces of bone can break off and keep the bone from healing properly. In this case, you may need surgery.

What to Expect

Symptoms of a broken toe include:

If your toe is crooked after the injury, the bone may be out of place and need to be straightened in order to heal properly. This may be done either with or without surgery.

Most broken toes will heal on their own with proper care at home. It can take 4 to 6 weeks for complete healing. Pain and swelling will go away within a few days to a week.

If something was dropped on the toe, the area under the toenail can bruise. This will go away in time with nail growth. If there is blood under the nail, it may be removed to reduce pain.

Symptom Relief

For the first few days or weeks after your injury:

For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn).

You may also take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain relief. If you have liver disease, talk with your provider before using this medicine.

DO NOT take more than the amount recommended on the medicine bottle or by your provider.

Your provider may prescribe a stronger medicine if needed.

Self-care at Home

To take care of your injury at home:

Activity

Slowly increase the amount of walking you do each day. You can return to normal activity once the swelling has gone down and you can wear a stable and protective shoe.

There may be some soreness and stiffness when you walk. This will go away once the muscles in your toe begin to stretch and strengthen.

Ice your toe after activity if there is any pain.

More severe injuries that require casting, reduction, or surgery will take to heal, possibly 6 to 8 weeks.

Follow-up

Follow up with your provider 1 to 2 weeks after your injury. Based on the severity, your provider may want to see you more than once.

When to call the doctor

Call the provider if you have:

References

Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM. Toe fracture. In: Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM, eds. Minor Emergencies. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 133.

Safran MR, Zachazewski J, Stone DA. Toe fracture (phalangeal). In: Safran MR, Zachazewski J, Stone DA, eds. Instructions for Sports Medicine Patients. 2nd ed. Elsevier Saunders; 2012:1219-1221.


Review Date: 5/14/2016
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, FACEP, FAAEM, Attending Physician at FDR Medical Services/Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Buffalo, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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