Broken Toe: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

You’ve just stubbed your toe hard, and now it’s tender, purple, and swollen. Does that mean you’re destined for a cast? The short answer is probably not. Despite this, you should consult a podiatrist whenever you suffer an injury to your foot, particularly if you suspect a break.

Toes are very important for keeping balance on your feet, and Regardless of how careful you are, accidents may still occur that break your toes. Such an event can cause a great deal of pain and serious damage.

Treatment is available for most toe fractures depending on the severity of the break. Some may respond to conservative treatment, while others may require surgery.

Causes of Broken Toes

A toe fracture may result from an injury or trauma such as stubbed toes or dropping heavy objects on toes. Long hours of repetitive movement can cause a broken toe. If you perform a lot of heavy work every day, then you ought to take a break every once in a while to minimize the risk of having a broken toe.

Symptoms of a Broken Toe

You may find it difficult to walk if you fracture your toe. Swelling, stiffness, and limited mobility are symptoms of a broken toe. The big toe bears a lot of bodyweight, making it an essential part of the foot. Breaking your big toe may impede your ability to be mobile.

Additionally, bruising and cuts to the skin of the affected toe can occur, and If left untreated, infections may occur.

Possible Complications from a Broken Toe

A broken toe can cause several complications such as:

Nail Injury

If you accidentally drop a heavy object on your toe or stub your toe, it may lead to a buildup of blood under the nail.

While this condition is not life-threatening, it can cause intense pain.

If the hematoma is large, you may need to consult a doctor to drain the buildup. If the hematoma is severe, you may need to remove the entire nail.


A big bone fracture that doesn’t heal properly is known as a nonunion. It’s an uncommon but serious complication of bone injury that can even lead to amputation in severe cases.

Compound fracture

Compound (or open) fractures occur when a broken bone pierces the skin. Open fractures can be painful and usually require an emergency surgical procedure.


Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects the joints. It leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling. Breaking a bone can lead to arthritis in the affected area.

Diagnosis for a Broken Toe

Before deciding on a suitable treatment plan, your doctor will ask a series of questions, including your medical history and the cause of your trauma. Provide your doctor with as much information as you can remember to aid a diagnosis.

Your physician will order an x-ray to assess the severity of the fracture. Depending on the results of those tests, your doctor may order additional tests to rule out other disorders. The test results may further aid the diagnosis process and help your doctor decide if surgery is required.

Treatment for a Broken Toe

Some home treatment techniques may help with your healing process if you have a broken toe. Immediately after breaking your toe, you should apply a bag of ice to the affected area and consult your doctor if you notice discoloration or swelling.

If, after a diagnosis and your doctor recommend you rest your feet for a few days, it may be necessary to change your activities to avoid putting pressure on the affected foot. You can elevate the affected foot using a few pillows to increase the rate of recovery.

Your doctor may also prescribe pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) to ease discomfort.

Surgical repair may be necessary in the most severe cases. Your surgeon may permanently insert some pieces of hardware such as screws and pins to support the bones and aid in a fast recovery.


The expected time for a toe to fully heal can be as long as six weeks long. Be very careful not to re-injure it by avoiding wearing high heels or participating in strenuous exercise activities during this healing time. If your condition doesn’t get better after six weeks, your doctor may order another x-ray.


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