I hear this all the time: “I’m not going to the doctor because I know there is nothing that can be done for my toe fracture.” That is not true; it’s time we dispel this myth. In fact, if you don’t pay your doctor a visit when you have a fractured toe, serious complications may develop.
A toe fracture is a break in the bone. There are two types of fractures: traumatic fractures and stress fractures. Traumatic fractures are a result from a direct and blunt impact. A traumatic fracture may have fully changed the structure of the bone (this is normally called a displaced fracture). You most likely have a traumatic fracture if you suffer from the following:
- Heard a crack at the exact time of the break.
- Can precisely pinpoint the pain.
- Have a crooked, bruised or swollen toe.
On the other hand, stress fractures are tiny cracks and breaks along the bone surface. Stress fractures are normally from repetitive and frequent stress. Athletes are commonly diagnosed with stress fractures, however, if you are born with abnormal foot structure, you are more prone to stress fractures. If pain tends to go away when resting but returns with activity and if the toe is swollen (but not bruised) then you most likely have a stress fracture.
Both traumatic fractures and stress fractures should never be overlooked. They require medical attention. If untreated, fractures could cause:
- A deformity in the bone structure.
- Limited foot agility.
- Chronic pain.
- Failure to heal.
It is imperative to visit your podiatrist for treatment. Treatment varies and depends on the severity and type of break. Most of the time, the following treatments are highly recommended:
- The toe may be placed in a splint to limit it’s flexibility.
- Wearing a boot-walker, stiff-soled or rigid shoe. This will keep the toe positioned accordingly.
- Taping the toe to another toe, often referred to as “buddy taping”
- Rest. Sometimes rest is all it takes to treat a traumatic fracture.
If the bone is badly displaced or if the joint is impacted, surgery may be the necessary treatment. Pins are normally used when performing surgery on a toe fracture.
Whether toe fractures are resolved with surgery or simply rest, make sure to have a podiatrist diagnose your injury. Be sure to follow up with your doctor after treatment and wear supportive shoes during the recovery process.
Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com