Bone Health

Broken Toe

What is a Broken Toe?

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  • A broken toe is also known as a fractured toe. There are many bones in each toe. A broken toe is a common injury in which one or more bones of the toe may be broken as a result of an injury. Dropping a large and heavyweight on your foot or badly stubbing your toe are the most common causes of a broken toe.
What is a Broken Toe?

Difference between a Broken Toe and a Sprained Toe

If you’ve ever stubbed your toe hard, the sudden, excruciating pain will make you think your toe is broken. In most of the cases, the injury turns out to be a sprain. A sprain is painful but it indicates that the bone is still intact.

A stubbed toe is commonly mistaken for a broken toe by many people. This is a common mistake because both of these injuries cause significant pain and discomfort. When a toe is broken, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If the toe is not treated on time, it can impair one’s ability to walk and run, as well as cause chronic pain.

There are some differences between a broken toe and a sprained toe. A broken toe can be followed by swelling, pain in the exact region of the fracture, or a possible dislocation. While there may be considerable swelling and bruising, a sprained toe may cause more generalized pain in the surrounding area where the injury has occurred. In addition to this, a sprained toe doesn’t appear to be dislocated. It will continue to swell, but there will be less bruising. A sprained toe may be painful for a few days, but it should begin to improve after that.

If you think you’ve broken or sprained your toe, you should see a podiatrist to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Symptoms of a Broken Toe

Some of the common signs and symptoms of a broken toe are given below:

  • Excruciating pain in the toe
  • Swelling and stiffness at the area of the break
  • The skin near the injury can appear bruised or discolored
  • Trouble in walking or standing
  • Difficulty in putting pressure on the toe
  • The two ends of the fractured bone may be displaced, causing the toe to look misshapen
  • Shoes may be too tight or too painful to wear

The injured toe should be monitored on a regular basis, but if you are experiencing severe symptoms, you should see a podiatrist. Some of these severe symptoms include worsening or new pain that is not healed by medicines, redness, sores or open wounds near the toe.

Causes of a Broken Toe

A broken toe is most often caused by stubbing it against something hard or dropping something heavy on it. Going barefoot is a big risk, particularly if you are walking in an unfamiliar environment or in the dark. You’re more likely to break your toe if you carry heavy items without proper foot protection, such as thick boots. A broken toe may also occur as a result of prolonged repetitive movements, such as those seen in some sports. This is also known as a stress fracture.

Treatment Options for a Broken Toe

Treatment Options for a Broken Toe
  1. Elevation

The pain is worsened as a result of the swelling that occurs after the injury. To help reduce the pain and swelling, keep the foot elevated above the level of the heart as much as possible. If you’re sleeping, prop your foot up on some pillows. It’s also beneficial to rest in a lounge chair.

  • Ice

For the first 1-2 days, place the ice in a plastic bag and apply it to the injured area for about 15-20 minutes after every 1-2 hours. To protect the skin, put a towel between it and the ice bag.

  • Medications

Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil, others), acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) will normally relieve the pain of a broken toe.  If the pain from your fracture is severe, your doctor may recommend stronger painkillers.

  • Immobilization

A fractured bone must be immobilized in order for its ends to knit back together and heal. Some of the examples of immobilization include:

  • Putting on a stiff-bottomed shoe:

Your doctor may recommend you to wear a stiff-bottomed shoe. This will keep the toe from flexing and will give you more space to accommodate the swelling.

  • Buddy taping:

Your doctor may tape the injured toe to its neighboring toe if you have a simple fracture in one of your smaller toes. The uninjured toe serves as a splint. To avoid skin irritation, place some gauze or felt between your toes before taping them together.

  • Casting:

The doctor may advice you to wear a walking cast. This stabilises the injured toe while also providing some support to the foot to relieve some of the pain and discomfort you might be feeling while walking.

  • Reduction

Your doctor may need to manipulate the broken fragments of your bone back into their correct places if they don’t fit properly together. This method of treatment is known as reduction. Doctors will normally perform this procedure without cutting and opening your skin. To numb your toe, you can use ice or an injected anesthetic.

  • Surgery

In severe cases, surgery may be required to repair the broken bone or bones. A surgeon may insert a pin or a screw into the bone to help in its healing. These materials will remain in the toe permanently.

Recovery Time

Even after a few weeks, your toe may appear swollen and tender. For one to two months after your injury, you will need to avoid running, walking long distances, or playing sports. If the break is in one of the metatarsals (longer bones in the foot), the recovery period could be longer.

Based on the severity and location of your injury, your doctor will give you a good estimate of how long it will take you to heal. For example, a mild fracture can heal faster than a more serious break.

By using a walking cast after breaking your toe, you can be able walk and continue most of your activities within one or two weeks. If the bone is healing properly, the pain should fade with time.

Walking Boots for a Broken Toe

Your doctor may suggest you wear a walking boot to protect your toe and foot after an injury or surgery. Broken bones, severe sprains, tendon injuries, and shin splints may all be treated with the boot. A walking boot keeps the foot stable and allows it to recover. It will help you keep your weight off an area, such as your foot, as it recovers. The majority of boots have two to five adjustable straps that go halfway up your calf.

The doctor will most likely place you in a walking boot for about three weeks if the fracture is a simple one with all of the bones still lined up correctly. The walking boot keeps the toes immobile so that the bones can re-align themselves. If your toe is at an incorrect angle, your doctor will numb it and then straighten it right away. You may be asked to wear a walking boot after that.

Essential Oils for a Broken Toe

Essential oils can aid in the healing of broken bones. They may be used as complementary medicine to help improve circulation and minimize inflammation, as well as reduce the pain and swelling. Some of the best essential oils to help in the healing of a broken toe are:

  • Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil has a number of properties that make it one of the best natural essential oils for bone healing. The presence of menthol can increase blood circulation, which strengthens the nerves and speeds up the healing process. Peppermint reduces the effects of inflammation, pain, and restlessness. It aids in fluid retention and promotes a full range of motion after bone healing.

  • Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender essential oil contains many properties that make it a really good oil essential oil for broken bones. It helps in the following ways:

  • Provides relaxation, improves sleep quality and improves the mood
  • Improves the blood circulation
  • Relieves inflammation and pain
  • Promotes bone healing process
  • Cypress Essential Oil

Cypress oil is a great oil for fractured bones because it has an antispasmodic property that helps in increasing the blood circulation. Circulation plays an important role in increasing the healing of bones, as it delivers nutrients and oxygen to the cells at the site of injury.

  • Clove Essential Oil

Clove oil has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and analgesic properties that makes it an ideal pain killer. Clove oils helps to relieve pain and its antioxidant property helps in the protection of body cells.

  • Basil Essential Oil

Basil oil possesses nerve repair property and helps bone healing, improving circulation, repairing damaged nerves, reducing inflammation, and more. Furthermore, basil’s analgesic properties keep it on the list of the most popular essential oils for broken bones. Since it is a naturally extracted product, there are fewer risks of any side effects.

Basil Essential Oil

Running with a Broken Toe

You can run with a broken toe if you have a high tolerance for pain. However, you should avoid running with a broken toe. You should take a break from running or any other sport that requires running for about 6-8 weeks before the fracture has healed completely.

If the injury is mild, you could be back on track in as little as two to three weeks. However, you must let your doctor decide after reviewing your X-ray and the improvement you’ve made over the last 2 to 3 weeks.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid working out. However, you must change your workout routine considering your toe injury and avoid any painful movements.

Bottom Line

Following your doctor’s advice is important for a positive result. Each day, you should gradually increase the pressure on your broken toe to see how it’s healing. Consider any slight improvements in discomfort and pain as signs that your toe is healing and getting better.

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