Broken toes can be painful and usually occur as a result of severe impact or trauma to one of the phalanges bones which make up the toes. However, it is possible that a stress fracture can occur gradually over time. The big toe and the little toe are the most commonly fractured as they are the most exposed, and rest is the key method of recovery.
Symptoms of a toe fracture include pain at which is felt instantly at the time of injury. The toe may swell up quickly and bruising may appear, if there is associated soft tissue injury. In severe fractures which have become displaced the toe may look deformed. Often with fractures of the smaller toes, the patient is not aware that they have a fracture.
Toe fractures explained
The toes are made up of 14 bones called phalanges, 3 in each of the small toes and 2 bones in the big toe or hallux as it is known. Fractured phalanges are different from a fractured metatarsal, which is actually in the foot, rather than the toes.
Fractures to the phalanges usually occur as a result of a direct trauma, such as something being dropped on the foot, or even stumping your toe! The Hallux (or big toe) can suffer a stress fracture, which is common in adolescent athletes.
The most common toe fractures are a broken big toe and broken little toe or pinky toe as it is also known. This is because these two toes are more exposed and more likely to come into contact with hard objects. The other toes are protected more by the other toes beside it.
Treatment of a broken toe will often mean rest to start with. Take the weight off the foot, elevate it and apply cold therapy as soon as possible. Applying ice to the toe will help relief the pain and prevent swelling which will delay the healing process.
If you suspect a broken bone then visit your Doctor who may refer you for an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis. However, often a minor fracture in one of the smaller toes will not require any treatment and the patient will not be disabled for any period of time.
Fractures in the Hallux or big toe, or more complex fractures may require the patient to wear a walking boot for 2-4 weeks to protect the foot. Alternatively the a buddy taping is done where the injured toe is strapped to the adjacent one.