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How to know if toe is fractured: How Do I Know If My Toe is Broken?

How Do I Know If My Toe is Broken?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Rachel N. Verville

August 24, 2017

Experiencing intense pain after stubbing your toe or dropping a heavy object on your foot is common. The toes contain thin and delicate bones, which makes them particularly susceptible to injury. As a result, it can be challenging to determine whether you need to see a foot doctor for a potential broken bone or give your toe a few days to heal on its own. Don’t ignore persistent pain in your toe – schedule a consultation with a qualified podiatrist to ease your concerns.

There are several signs to look for if you think you may have a broken toe:

Pain Level

If you are experiencing excruciating pain in your toe or an ongoing tingling sensation, that is a strong sign that you have broken a bone. If walking makes the toe pain more intense, that is usually evidence of a break.

Pain Duration

Pain from stubbing your toe often resolves within a few hours to a full day. If the pain persists for multiple days, you are likely dealing with something more serious, such as a broken bone.


Compare your injured toe with its matching toe on the opposite foot. If there is a notable difference in size, that might mean you have broken a bone. Note that broken bones usually result in swelling, while stubbing your toe rarely does.

Shape and Direction

Stubbing your toe will not change the overall shape or the direction your toe points. If you notice either of these symptoms, you may have a break and should seek care from an experienced foot doctor immediately.


A broken bone may cause your toe to turn red, blue, black, or yellow. Stubbing your toe, on the other hand, might cause short-term redness but nothing long-lasting or extreme.


One way to appraise your toe is to move it by hand. If the toe moves strangely or you can feel the bone itself moving, that likely points to a break.

When to Call a Podiatrist for Your Broken Toe

It may be tempting to assume your broken toe will simply heal on its own without clinical care. However, leaving a toe to heal on its own may lead to further complications down the road, in some instances requiring you to undergo foot surgery. It is always best to evaluate and treat the issue before it reaches that point.

Failing to have your broken toe treated promptly may result in the following complications:

  • Reduced foot movement (the result of the bones healing back in strange or unnatural ways).
  • An increased risk of developing arthritis in the foot.
  • Pieces of broken bone splintering off (making complete healing all but impossible without surgical intervention).

For these reasons, we recommend contacting a podiatrist whenever you suspect a broken toe, especially if you experience persistent pain, bruising, or swelling.

You’re in Good Hands with Dr.


If you’re looking for reliable foot care in the Frisco or Dallas Metro Area, Dr. Verville at RNV Podiatry is an excellent option. With more than a decade of experience in foot surgeries, you can trust Dr. Verville to care for your feet. Learn more about broken toes and other types of foot fractures.

Broken toe – NHS

A broken toe can be painful, but you do not usually need to go to hospital. There are things you can do to treat it at home.

Check if you have a broken toe

You may have broken your toe if it’s:

  • red or bruised
  • painful and swollen
  • difficult to walk on


Do not worry if you’re not sure if it’s broken or just bruised, treatment is usually the same for both.

Urgent advice: Get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you have a bad cut or wound after injuring your toe
  • you have severe toe pain
  • your child has hurt or broken their toe

You may need further treatment in hospital, such as a boot, cast or surgery.

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

You could also go to your nearest urgent treatment centre.

What we mean by severe pain

Severe pain:
  • always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk
  • you cannot sleep
  • it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
Moderate pain:
  • always there
  • makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
  • you can manage to get up, wash or dress
Mild pain:
  • comes and goes
  • is annoying but does not stop you doing daily activities

Immediate action required: Go to A&E if:

  • you think you have broken your big toe
  • your toe is pointing out at an odd angle
  • the bone is sticking out of your toe
  • there was a snap, grinding or popping noise at the time of injury
  • you feel tingling in your toe or foot or it feels numb

If you cannot get to A&E by yourself, call 999 for an ambulace.

What you can do about a broken toe

Doctors will usually suggest you treat a broken toe at home first if:

  • it’s not your big toe
  • the bone is not sticking out of your foot
  • your toe is not pointing at an odd angle
  • there’s no wound on your toe

Broken toes usually heal within 4 to 6 weeks, but it can sometimes take several months.


  • take ibuprofen or paracetamol for the pain and swelling

  • rest your foot and keep it raised

  • hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a towel on your toe for up to 20 minutes every few hours

  • wear wide, comfortable shoes with a low heel

  • avoid walking around as much as possible

  • strap up your broken toe – put a small piece of cotton wool or gauze between your sore toe and the toe next to it, then tape them together to support the sore toe


  • do not strap up your toe if it’s pointing out at an odd angle or you have hurt your big toe – get medical advice

  • do not put ice directly on your skin

  • do not walk or stand for long periods

  • do not wear tight, pointy shoes

  • do not play any sports like football, rugby or hockey for 6 weeks or until the pain eases

  • do not try to treat your child’s toe – take them to an urgent treatment centre or A&E

A pharmacist can help with a broken toe

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • the best painkiller to take
  • what you need to strap up your toe
  • if you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • pain and swelling has not started to ease 2 to 3 days after you injured your toe
  • it still hurts to walk 6 weeks after injuring your toe
  • you have diabetes and have injured your toe – foot problems can be more serious if you have diabetes

They may send you for an X-ray to see if you need any further treatment.

Page last reviewed: 06 May 2022
Next review due: 06 May 2025

How to tell if a finger is broken



June 20, 2022

Focus on the symptoms, but don’t delay your visit to the doctor.

Iya Zorina

Author of Lifehacker, athlete, CCM

You can listen to the short version of the article. If it’s more convenient for you, turn on the podcast.

What can lead to a broken finger

The thumbs and toes have two phalanges, and all the others have three. Any of these bones can break. For example, from falling a heavy object, being pinched by a door, or hitting the edge of a nightstand. It is not necessary to drop a weight on your foot or hit your finger with a hammer – even an unsuccessful landing when jumping from a height can lead to a fracture.

The likelihood of breaking bones increases with certain diseases and bad habits. Among the increased risk factors:

  • cancer;
  • type 1 diabetes;
  • celiac disease;
  • Crohn’s disease;
  • ulcerative colitis;
  • rheumatoid arthritis;
  • osteoporosis;
  • calcium deficiency;
  • excessive consumption of alcohol;
  • smoking;
  • taking corticosteroids – anti-inflammatory drugs.

How to tell if a finger is broken

The most obvious sign that can indicate a fracture is severe and throbbing pain that increases with movement of the injured finger and does not subside with time.

Other common symptoms include:

  • change in the shape of the finger or its position relative to others;
  • hematoma, which may involve a broken toe, spread to others, and extend into the foot or hand;
  • numbness;
  • flexion problems;
  • edema;
  • if we are talking about the leg – the inability to transfer body weight to the injured limb.

In this case, the person will not necessarily lose the ability to move the finger, and the resulting pain may seem tolerable. If the injured limb has not changed its position and shape, without radiography it will not be possible to distinguish a fracture from a severe bruise.

Therefore, if pain and swelling persist for 1-2 days, be sure to visit a traumatologist. The sooner treatment begins, the greater the chance that the bones will grow together correctly and there will be no problems with the mobility of the finger.

Do’s and don’ts before seeing a doctor

Before you see a traumatologist, immobilize your injured finger if possible. If the fracture is on the leg, take off your shoes, lie down and place the limb above the level of the head. This will ensure the outflow of blood and reduce pain and swelling.

An ice pack can also be applied for local anesthesia for 15-20 minutes. But keep in mind that this procedure only helps to relieve symptoms and does not promote healing. While waiting for a trip to the emergency room, you can also take an anesthetic pill.

If your toe is injured, do not go to the hospital on foot, as this may dislodge the broken bones. In addition, do not try to immobilize the finger yourself, for example, by wrapping it with a band-aid or sports tape to the next one. This can cause tension and displacement of bone fragments, which will only exacerbate the problem.

What happens if you don’t see a doctor

In some cases, surgery is needed to heal the fracture properly. For example, if:

  • damaged joint;
  • a piece of bone to which the tendon was attached was torn off;
  • the bone is shattered into several fragments;
  • damaged ligaments or tendons;
  • bone fragments are unstable and cannot be securely fixed with a bandage.

Because you can’t tell what type of fracture you have by eye, not seeing a doctor increases your risk of malunion and loss of joint function.

Consequences of malunion of the bone. Photo: Iya Zorina

As a result, the finger may look crooked (as in the photo above) and either not bend at all, or do it not in full range.

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  • How to recognize a sprain and what to do about it

How to tell if a finger is broken – Article

Step-by-step instructions on how to detect a broken finger:
1. Pay attention to pain and hypersensitivity. The first sign of a broken finger is pain. The intensity of the pain depends on the severity of the fracture. Be careful with your finger after injury and pay attention to the degree of pain first.

  • It can be difficult to tell if a finger is broken at first, because the sharp pain and tenderness are also accompanied by dislocations and sprains.
  • Look for other symptoms or seek medical attention if you are unsure of the severity of your injury.

2. Pay attention to swelling and bruising. A fracture of the finger is accompanied by acute pain, after which there is swelling or bruising. This is the body’s natural response to injury. After a fracture, an inflammatory process is activated in the body, which leads to edema as a result of the release of fluid into the surrounding tissues.

  • A bruise often follows the swelling. This happens when the small blood vessels surrounding the fracture swell or burst due to increased fluid pressure.
  • It can be difficult at first to tell if your finger is broken if you are still able to move it. However, after you move your finger, the swelling and bruising will become more noticeable. The swelling may also spread to adjacent fingers or to the palm of the hand.
  • As a rule, swelling and bruising appear 5-10 minutes after the first bouts of pain in the finger.
  • However, slight swelling may also occur due to stretching. However, it is not accompanied by immediate bruising.

3. Look at the deformity of the finger and the inability to move it. In this case, the phalanx of the finger cracks or breaks in one or more places. The deformity of the bone may show up as unusual bulges on the finger or a twist in the finger.

  • If the finger is unusually crooked, it is a sign of a fracture.
  • Usually, a broken finger cannot be moved due to the fact that the connection between the phalanges is broken.
  • A fracture may be accompanied by such severe swelling and bruising that it will be difficult for you to move your finger.

4. Know when to seek medical attention. If you suspect you have a broken finger, go to the nearest emergency room or emergency room. A bone fracture is a serious injury, the severity of which can not always be assessed only by external symptoms. Some fractures require special measures for the bone to heal properly.