Broken Toe (cont.)
How can you tell if you have a broken toe?
A doctor will ask questions to determine how the toe was injured and will examine the injured toe and possibly check for other injuries.
It is best to seek medical evaluation soon after the injury to ensure proper treatment and healing.
- A doctor may take an X-ray to determine if a toe is broken.
- X-ray are not always necessary to make the diagnosis of a broken toe, especially if the break is in one of the smaller toes.
Do I need to see a doctor for a broken toe?
A broken toe may or may not require prolonged medical care. Home remedies to care for a broken toe at home include elevation, ice, and rest (see home remedy section). If the fracture is severe it may require medical attention, a tetanus shot, pain medication, or surgery. The injured toe should be assessed by a health-care professional to determine if more than simple immobilization is necessary.
What natural or home remedies can help soothe the pain and swelling of a broken toe?
These remedies can be taken at home to help decrease the pain and swelling, and help the fracture heal properly.
Elevation of the injured foot
- Swelling that occurs after the injury worsens pain.
- To decrease swelling (and pain), keep the foot raised above the level of the heart as often as possible.
- Prop the foot up on some pillows, especially when sleeping. Reclining in a lounge chair is also helpful.
Ice the injured toe
- Put ice in a plastic bag and apply it to the injury for 15 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours for the first 1 one 2 days. Frozen peas or corn may be used in place of ice as it conforms to the injured toe more readily than ice cubes.
- Place a towel between the skin and the bag of ice, frozen peas, or corn to protect the skin from freezer burn.
Rest (avoid walking on the injured foot)
- Avoid strenuous exercise, prolonged standing, or walking.
- Crutches or a special shoe to wear when walking (to avoid putting weight on the fracture) while it heals may be necessary.
What is the medical treatment for a broken toe (meds, buddy taping, booting)?
Depending on the location and severity of the toe fracture, the fracture may need to be put back into place (reduced) and splinted or casted. If there is an open wound near the injured toe, a tetanus shot and antibiotics also may be necessary.
Pain medications for a broken toe
- Usually only acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) is needed for pain.
- Talk to the doctor before taking any new medications.
- For a severe fracture, the doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication.
- Elevating the foot and using ice packs will help reduce pain.
Reduction for a broken toe
- If the toe fracture is displaced (the two ends of the broken bone are out of place) or rotated (the toe is pointing in the wrong direction), the doctor may need to put it back into place (reduction).
- Sometimes an injection of medication (anesthesia) may be needed to numb the toe before it is put back into place.
- After a reduction, the broken bone will need support to hold it in place while it heals.
Buddy taping for a broken toe
- If the toe fracture is a minor or small fracture in a bone of one of the small toes, the doctor may only need to tape the injured toe to the toe next to it for support. This treatment is called buddy taping.
- If the toe is buddy taped, it is usually safe to bathe, and then replace the tape afterward, but check with the doctor to make sure it is OK.
- If the tape is replaced by the person with the toe injury, it is recommended they put a small piece of cotton or gauze between the toes that are taped together. This prevents the skin between the toes from developing sores or blisters.
Casting or booting for a broken toe
- A cast is usually not required for a simple toe fracture.
- A hard-soled, sturdy, and supportive shoe should be worn.
- The doctor may give a special shoe to wear if the foot or toes are very swollen.
- A cast (or even surgery) may be needed if the big toe is broken, the fracture involves a joint, or a lot of small toe fractures occur at once.
- A cast may also be needed if a bone in the foot or leg is broken in addition to the toe.
In some cases, the doctor may prescribe a walking boot. This will allow you to bear weight on your injured foot, while protecting the toe so it can heal.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/18/2016
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