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"There is nothing you can do for a broken toe!"

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"There is nothing you can do for a broken toe!"

I hear this daily, and it never fails to make me sad. People hurt their toe, drop something on it, kick something, etc. and assume their toe is broken. When it stops hurting in a week or two, they assume that the broken toe has miraculously healed without any treatment.  Then they tell their friends, "I broke my toe and it healed just fine."

The truth is, in most cases, it was never broken in the first place.  It really does take a lot to actually break a toe.  My son stepped on my toe once and I was sure it was broken, but X-rays showed that even I was wrong about this. Unfortunately, because of this myth, people don't seek treatment soon enough and this leads to permanent damage, frequently requiring surgery. When a bone is broken, it must be evaluated.  If the bones are in alignment, then simple splinting in good position and rest is usually enough to allow it to heal, usually in 3-4 weeks.  However, if the two ends are not in perfect alignment, and not treated, the toe heals in poor position, if at all, and it becomes chronically painful.  This leads to corns and calluses, pain in shoes, and eventual surgery to straighten the toe.  This is a painful, avoidable surgery.

So, if you hurt your toe (Remember, the reason we have toes is to help us find furniture in the dark!) here is what you should do.  If the toe is in perfect condition and you can bend it normally without a lot of pain, rest it and apply ice periodically for a few days until better.  If there is any positional change, severe swelling and bruising, or loss of ability to bend it, then it must be X-rayed and evaluated.   

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