Toe Pain

Toe pain

Here we explain the common injuries which cause sudden, or gradual onset toe pain.

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Medically reviewed by Dr Chaminda Goonetilleke, 20th Jan. 2022

Gradual onset or chronic toe pain

The following injuries cause gradual onset or chronic toe pain.

Black toenail

A black toenail or Subungual Hematoma is a common problem resulting either from direct trauma to the toe, or overuse. It is frequently known as ‘Jogger’s Toe’.

  • Your toe will be painful and tender.
  • The nail appears black.
  • This is because blood settles between the nail and the skin increasing pressure.

Ingrown toenail

An ingrown toenail is also known as onychocryptosis. It is a common and frustrating cause of toe pain.

  • It is often caused by improper footwear or poor nail cutting.
  • Pain and redness around the side of the toenail are the main symptoms.

Hallux Rigidus

Hallux Rigidus is a stiff & painful big toe, specifically at the base of the joint. Symptoms also include:

  • Pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joint at the base of the big toe.
  • Hallux is Latin for ‘big toe’ or ‘great toe’ and yes, you can guess that rigidus simply means rigid or stiff.
  • Hallux Rigidus can be caused either by a direct impact or from overuse.

Hammer toe

Hammer toe

Hammer toe is a condition which causes one or more of the smaller toes to become bent upwards.

  • It is often caused by wearing shoes that are too small the toes are pushed into a shortened position.
  • As a result, they bend upwards.
  • A corn or callus may develop at the top of the toe and the joint may feel painful.
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Sudden onset toe injuries

The following are causes of toe pain which occur suddenly. This may be a result of direct trauma and you will know exactly when your injury occurred.

Broken toe

Broken toe

Toe fractures can be very painful and usually occur as a result of severe impact or trauma such as stubbing your toe, or being stamped on. Symptoms include

  • Pain is felt instantly at the time of injury.
  • Rapid swelling.
  • Bruising may develop, especially if there is associated soft tissue injury.
  • In severe fractures, your toe may look deformed.
  • Often with fractures of the smaller toes, you may not even be aware you have a fracture.

Turf Toe

Turf toe

Turf toe occurs after a very vigorous upward bending of the big toe. As a result, ligaments are under the base of the toe sprain (stretch or tear). Symptoms consist of:

  • Big toe pain in the MTP joint at the base of the toe.
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness

Dislocated Toe

Dislocated Toe

Dislocated toes are normally caused by direct trauma to the toe. This can sprain the toe ligament and displace the phalanges bones in the toe.

  • Severe pain will appear at the time of impact and can be reproduced by trying to bend the toe.
  • Seeing a doctor is recommended to ensure the bone heals properly.

Black toenail

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A black toenail or Subungual Hematoma is a common problem resulting from direct trauma to the toe or overuse. It is frequently known as ‘Jogger’s Toe’.

The toenail turns black because blood settles between the nail and the skin increasing pressure, and resulting in pain.

Rehabilitation & exercises

References & further reading

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