Dislocated or fractured toes usually occur from direct trauma to the toe causing a severe sprain to the toe ligament with phalanges bones in the toe being displaced or fractured. 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.
On this page:
- Dislocated Toe
- Broken Toe
Signs and symptoms include immediate intense pain in the toe at the time of injury. The toe will be extremely painful when attempting to bend the toe. A visible deformity may be obvious but this is not always the case. Swelling, bruising, tenderness or numbness may also be present.
Some people are more prone to dislocations due to lax ligaments or malformed joint sockets. Dislocated toes are very painful, and medical assistance should be sought immediately. Never attempt to reduce or pop the toe back into place yourself.
- Apply the principles of R.I.C.E.(rest, ice, compression, elevation) until medical attention can be sought.
- Try to see a doctor within 6 hours to ensure proper healing. The doctor will manipulate the toe back into place and may buddy-strap the toe (to the one next to it) to ensure that it heals correctly.
- An X-ray may be taken before treating the dislocation to ensure there are no other complications.
- After the reduction (manipulation to put the joint back in place), a period of care should take place which might include strapping, ice and heat, whirlpool treatments, and strengthening exercises.
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.
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 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 relieve 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 buddy taping is done where the injured toe is strapped to the adjacent one.