Toe Injuries & Toe Pain
Toe injuries include common conditions such as Ingrown toenail, Black toenail as well as fractured, broken toe or dislocated toes. Deformities such as hallux rigidus (stiff big toe) and hammer toe are also explained with advice on treatment, prevention and when to see a doctor or seek professional medical advice.
A black toenail or Subungual Hematoma is a common problem resulting from direct trauma and impact to the toe or overuse. The toenail turns black from blood between the nail and the skin, which may cause pressure and a throbbing sensation under the nail. This toe injury normally heals by itself but if it is more severe, further treatment may be necessary.
Ingrown toenail or onychocryptis is a common and frustrating cause of toe pain. It is often caused by improper footwear that doesn't allow the nail to grow properly, or due to poor nail cutting. Pain and redness around the side of the toenail are the main symptoms, and infection may occur. Read more on the symptoms and treatment of ingrown toenail.
Hallux Rigidus is a common cause of big toe pain. Symptoms include a stiff big toe with swelling and inflammation in the joint, and pain, particularly when walking. This toe injury can be caused by a direct impact or from overuse. Repetitive stress on the toe, such as when the foot overpronates or when the toes are dorsiflexed (like in a rugby scrum) can bring on this injury.
Hammer toe is a condition which causes one or more of the smaller toes to become bent upwards. The toe can be straightened but if ignored, it may become a permanent deformity. This toe injury is often caused by wearing shoes that are too small as they force the toes into a shortened position which makes them bend upwards. Correcting this injury early on is key to making a full recovery.
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.
Dislocated toes usually occur from a direct trauma to the toe causing a severe sprain to the toe ligament with phalanges bones in the toe being displaced. There will be severe pain on impact and when trying to bend the toe. Seeing a doctor is recommended to ensure the bone is put back and the toe injury heals correctly.
When should I see a doctor?
When should you see a doctor with your foot pain? Often people do not want to bother their GP or A & E department but if you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.
- Severe pain, especially on walking
- Severe swelling (oedema)
- Altered sensation in the foot – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia) in the foot.
- Unable to complete normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.
Further medical assistance can be sought through either your local GP or a private clinician such as a podiatrist, physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath or chiropractor. If you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see below) and are still unable to walk after 72 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment.
Secondly, if you have applied for P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have weakness that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your foot or heel, you are highly recommended to seek advice from a specialist expert - such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist, osteopath, or chiropractor - who can provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program.