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Signs of toe fracture: Broken toe – Symptoms and causes

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

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 16, 2021

  • Broken Toe Overview
  • Broken Toe Causes
  • Broken Toe Symptoms
  • When to Seek Medical Care
  • Exams and Tests
  • Broken Toe Treatment Self-Care at Home
  • Medical Treatment
  • Medications
  • Other Therapy
  • Next Steps Follow-up
  • Prevention
  • Outlook
  • For More Information
  • Synonyms and Keywords
  • More

Another name for a broken toe is a toe fracture. Each toe is made up of several bones. One or more of these bones may be fractured after an injury to the foot or toes.

Broken toes usually result from some form of trauma or injury to the foot or toe. Injuries such as stubbing a toe or dropping a heavy object on a toe may cause a fracture. Sometimes, a broken toe may result from prolonged repetitive movements, as in certain sports activities. This is called a stress fracture.

  • After the injury, pain, swelling, or stiffness can occur. Bruising of the skin around the toe may also be noticeable. The toe may not look normal, and it may even look bent or deformed if the broken bone is out of place. It may be difficult to walk because of the pain, especially if the big toe is fractured.
  • Shoes may be painful to wear or feel too tight.
  • Some other problems may develop in addition to, or as a result of, the fracture. These complications can occur right away after the injury (minutes to days), or can happen much later (weeks to years).
    • Immediate complications
      • Nail injury: A collection of blood may develop underneath the toenail called a subungual hematoma. If it is large, it may have to be drained. To drain a subungual hematoma a doctor will make a small hole in the toenail to drain the blood out. If the hematoma is very large or painful, the entire toenail may need to be removed.
      • Open fracture: Rarely, the broken bone in a toe fracture may stick out through the skin. This is called an open or compound fracture. Careful cleansing of the wound and possibly antibiotic medication will be needed to prevent the bone from becoming infected. Sometimes surgery may even be necessary.
    • Delayed complications
      • After the toe fracture heals, the person may still be left with arthritis, pain, stiffness, or even a deformity.
      • Sometimes, the fractured bone will not heal completely (called a nonunion), or will heal improperly (called a malunion). Although it’s rare, surgery may be necessary to fix this problem.

The injured toe should be looked at every day. Call a doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Worsening or new pain not relieved by pain medication and the measures described in the treatment section
  • Sores, redness, or open wounds near the injured toe
  • A cast or splint is damaged or broken

Go to a hospital’s emergency department if the following signs or symptoms are present:

  • Cold, numb, or tingling toes
  • Blue or gray-colored skin
  • Open wounds, bleeding, or drainage from near the broken toe

A doctor will ask some questions to determine how the toe was injured. Then the doctor will examine the injured toe and should also make sure there are no 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 see if a toe is broken or fractured.
  • X-rays are not always necessary to make the diagnosis of a broken toe, especially if the break is in one of the smaller toes.

These are things that can be done at home to help decrease the pain and swelling and to help the fracture heal properly.

  • Elevation
    • Swelling that occurs after the injury worsens pain.
    • To help decrease the swelling (and the pain), keep the foot raised above the level of the heart as much as possible.
    • Prop the foot up on some pillows, especially when sleeping. Reclining in a lounge chair is also helpful.
  • Ice
    • Put ice in a plastic bag and apply it to the injury for 15-20 minutes every 1-2 hours for the first 1-2 days.
    • Make sure to place a towel between the skin and the bag of ice to protect the skin.
  • Rest
    • Avoid any strenuous exercise, prolonged standing, or walking.
    • Crutches may be needed, or a special shoe to wear when walking to avoid putting weight on the fracture while it heals.

Depending on the location and severity of the toe fracture, the fracture may need to be reduced (put back into place) and splinted or casted. If there is an open wound near the injured toe, a tetanus shot and antibiotic medication may also be necessary.

Pain medications

  • Usually only acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is needed for pain.
  • Talk to the doctor before taking any new medications.
  • For a severe fracture, the doctor may prescribe something stronger.
  • Pain may be helped by elevating the foot and using ice packs.
  • Reduction
    • If the toe fracture is displaced (the 2 ends of the broken bone are out of place) or rotated (the toe is pointing in the wrong direction), the doctor may need to reduce it, or put it back into place.
    • Sometimes a shot of medication (called local 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
    • If the toe fracture is a minor or small fracture in a bone of one of the small toes, a doctor may only need to tape the injured toe to the one next to it for support. This treatment is also 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.
    • Make sure to 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
    • A cast is usually not required for a simple toe fracture.
    • A hard-soled, sturdy, and supportive shoe should be worn.
    • A doctor may suggest 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, a 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.

Talk to the doctor to find out when to schedule an appointment to have the injured toe re-checked to make sure it is healing properly. If any problems or complications develop sooner, the appointment should be scheduled sooner.

To help prevent an injury resulting in a broken toe, sturdy and supportive shoes should be worn.

Broken toes usually take about 6 weeks to heal. If problems last longer than 6 weeks, another X-ray may be needed, or the injury should be rechecked by the doctor to see how the bone is healing.

Simple fractures usually heal well with no problems. However, a very bad fracture or a fracture that goes into a joint is at risk for developing arthritis, pain, stiffness, and possibly even a deformity.

The American College of Podiatric Medicine
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Hermosa Beach, CA 90254


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
9400 W. Higgins Road
Rosemont, IL 60018

(847) 823-7186


toe fracture, metatarsal fracture, phalanx fracture, broken toe, foot trauma, foot injury, nail injury, subungual hematoma, open fracture, compound fracture, displaced toe fracture, rotated toe fracture, buddy taping, stress fracture

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What to do if you break your toe? — Articles “Aerodar-Med”

December 25, 2022

A common cause of deformity of the toes is associated with fractures. They are rarely recognized by a person without medical education. Some people assume it’s a bruise and endure the pain until the fracture heals. As a rule, they grow together incorrectly, which is why it is so important to learn how to determine whether it is a fracture or just a bruise of the fingers. Incorrectly fused bones can lead to a change in gait, and in the future – and deformation of the entire skeleton, in particular the spine. And this can already lead to serious pain.

If there is any suspicion of a fracture or fracture, contact a medical organization for qualified medical care. Before you go to the doctor, you should properly provide yourself with first aid. The article will describe the main symptoms, causes and treatment regimens for finger fractures, as well as possible complications.

Causes of finger fractures

Fractures can occur in both pathologically altered bone and healthy. Pathological fractures are associated with changes in bone structure. It can change due to infection, as well as with the development of osteoporosis and impaired tissue mineralization. Pathological fractures often occur in older people.

Fractures can also occur in healthy bone. This is due to the fact that the acting force was greater than that which the finger can withstand. This may occur due to a blow with a large object or an incorrectly placed limb during a fall.

Classification of finger fractures

The toes are made up of phalanges, which are connected to each other by joints. Finger fractures in traumatology are classified as follows:

  • open and closed – open when bone is visible in the wound;

  • along the fracture line: transverse, longitudinal, oblique;

  • with and without fragments.

Symptoms of broken fingers

In medicine, there are 4 main criteria by which one can reliably say that a person has a fracture, and not a bruise:

  • unnatural position of the fingers;

  • pathological, that is, incorrect mobility of the fingers;

  • presence of bone crunch – crepitus;

  • bone fragments in the wound.

There are also additional criteria by which one can only assume that a person has bone damage:

  • tissue swelling;

  • soreness;

  • presence of hemorrhages under the skin – bruises, hematomas;

  • disturbance of sensations in the fingers, numbness;

  • gait disturbance – depending on the finger, the disturbances can vary from minor to obvious, severe changes in gait are visible with a fracture of the large one.

If you have these symptoms, you should immediately go to the emergency room.

Complications of finger fractures

Sometimes people who have a broken finger don’t want to go to the doctor because they think it’s a minor problem. After all, it was not a large bone that broke, but only a small finger. But even with such a fracture, serious complications can occur.

If this is a closed fracture, and the integrity of the skin is not broken, then there is a risk of improper union of bone fragments. Because of this, gait is disturbed in the future, the foot is deformed, and subsequently this leads to problems with the spine due to incorrect gait and pain in the toes after a long walk.

In the presence of an open wound, there is always a risk of infection. It is not in vain that in the presence of lesions on the skin in medical institutions, tetanus prophylaxis is carried out. Moreover, an ordinary person without a medical education can treat the wound incorrectly, and this will lead to its suppuration, and in the future this may lead to amputation of the finger.

It is precisely because of complications that one should consult a traumatologist. There are medical centers that work around the clock, where they will provide free medical care after a thorough examination. As a rule, it is enough for a doctor to conduct a visual examination and take an x-ray, if necessary, they can additionally perform a computed tomography.

Treatment of broken fingers

If there is a crack in the bone, doctors advise to keep calm and completely remove the load on the injured limb. In addition, painkillers are prescribed, and for reliability, the injured finger is fixed to the next one.

With a closed fracture and no displacement, the traumatologist applies a plaster cast up to the ankle. So it will be necessary to pass within a month and come back for a second appointment, so that the doctor removes the cast or decides to continue the treatment.

If the fracture turned out to be open, surgical assistance is indispensable here. In a sterile operating room, a trauma surgeon will compare the bone fragments, disinfect the wound and connect the edges with surgical sutures.

When fingers are broken, for better recovery, you should eat food rich in minerals and vitamins, especially calcium and magnesium.

First aid is to apply ice to the injured limb, immobilize it, and go to a medical facility. If there is no way to get there on your own, you should call an ambulance, including if bleeding does not stop with an open wound.

Signs of a fracture of the big toe: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Signs of a fracture of the big toe: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. How to recognize a fracture of the big toe and what measures should be taken to treat it.

Big toe fracture is a serious injury that can result from injury or a fall. This type of fracture is quite common and can result in significant discomfort and movement impairment. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of a fracture in order to consult a doctor in a timely manner and begin treatment.

The main symptoms of a fractured big toe are severe pain, swelling, bruising, and restriction of movement. When the big toe is injured, a so-called “pedestal fracture” can develop, when the toe looks short and wide, and the nail moves away from the bed. A specific “prominent bone” symptom may also be seen, where the outer edge of the thumb becomes more protruding.

To diagnose a fractured big toe, an x-ray is needed to accurately determine the presence and nature of the injury. The doctor may also examine and palpate to assess the condition of the tissues and determine the extent of damage.

The treatment of a big toe fracture depends on its type and complexity. In most cases, conservative treatment is used, including wearing a cast or finger splinting. Complex fractures may require surgery, such as fixation of the bones with plates and screws.

A fractured big toe is a serious injury that can result from an injury or a fall. Here are the main symptoms that may indicate a fracture:

If you suspect a fractured big toe, it is recommended that you see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

A broken big toe may be accompanied by swelling and severe pain. Edema occurs due to a violation of the integrity of bones and tissues, which leads to impaired blood circulation and swelling of the surrounding tissues.

Severe pain is one of the main symptoms of a fractured big toe. It occurs due to irritation of nerve endings and damage to soft tissues. The pain may be intense and increase with movement or palpation of the finger.

If there is swelling and severe pain, you should consult a doctor for qualified assistance. The doctor will conduct an examination and prescribe the necessary studies to diagnose the fracture and determine its characteristics.


What symptoms may indicate a broken big toe?

The main symptoms of a fractured big toe are severe pain, swelling, bruising, and impaired movement of the toe.

How can a fractured big toe be diagnosed?

To diagnose a fracture of the big toe, an x-ray is taken to see if a fracture is present or not.

What should I do if I suspect a broken big toe?

If you suspect a broken toe, you should see an orthopedic doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

How is a fractured big toe treated?

Treatment for a fractured big toe may include a cast, special shoes, physical therapy, and, in some cases, surgery.

Can I fix a broken big toe myself?

No, it is not possible to diagnose a broken toe on your own. For accurate diagnosis and treatment, you need to consult an orthopedic doctor.

How long does a fractured big toe take to heal?

The healing time of a fractured big toe depends on the complexity of the fracture and the individual characteristics of the organism, but, as a rule, the healing process takes about 6-8 weeks.

What complications can arise from a fracture of the big toe?

A fractured big toe can cause complications such as impaired mobility of the toe, joint deformity, infectious complications, etc.

How can a fracture of the big toe be prevented?

Wearing comfortable shoes, avoiding injury, and doing exercises to strengthen the muscles and ligaments of the foot is recommended to prevent a big toe fracture.

Inability to move the toe

Inability to move the toe is one of the main signs of a fractured big toe. This condition can be caused by various factors such as trauma, fracture, or other injuries. If the thumb is not mobile, this may indicate a serious problem in the joint or bones.

The main symptoms associated with the inability to move the finger may include:

  1. Severe pain in the thumb;
  2. Swelling and bruising around the finger;
  3. Feeling of numbness or tingling in the finger;
  4. Curvature or deformity of the finger;
  5. Restriction of movement in the joint of the finger.

To diagnose the cause of the inability to move your finger, your doctor may order an x-ray to look for a fracture or other bone damage. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be needed to determine the condition of the soft tissues and joints.

Treatment for inability to move your finger depends on the cause of the condition. In the event of a fracture, it may be necessary to wear a cast or special braces to stabilize the toe and help it heal. In some cases, surgery may be required to repair the bones or joints.

Non-surgical treatments such as cold application, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physiotherapy can be used to relieve symptoms and promote healing.

It is important to see a doctor if you are unable to move your finger in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment. Untimely access to a doctor can lead to complications and delay the healing process.

Bruising and bruising

Bruising and bruising is one of the most common symptoms of a fractured big toe. They occur due to vascular damage and hemorrhage into the soft tissues around the fracture.

Main signs of bruising and bruising:

  • Discoloration of the skin . At the site of injury, the skin may turn blue, purple, or black.
  • Edema . Bruising and bruising are often accompanied by swelling, which may be seen directly around the fracture or extend to the entire leg.
  • Soreness . Bruising and bruising can cause pain and discomfort when moving or touching the injured area.

To diagnose bruising and bruising, the doctor examines and palpates the injured area. If necessary, additional studies, such as x-rays or MRI, may be ordered to identify a possible fracture and assess its characteristics.

Treatment of bruising and bruising is related to the main treatment of a fractured big toe. This includes wearing a cast or orthosis, restricting leg movement, applying cold and anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve swelling and pain, and physical therapy to restore finger function.

Sample plan for treating bruises and bruises in a broken toe: Stage of treatment Measures

1. Active phase
  • Wearing a cast or orthosis
  • 90 021 Restriction of leg movement

  • Applying cold to the injured area
  • Reception anti-inflammatory drugs
2. Recovery phase
  • Physiotherapy to restore finger function
  • Exercises to strengthen muscles and ligaments
  • Massage and stretch the injured area
  • Gradually increase the load and activity

It is important to see a doctor if bruising or bruising occurs after a big toe injury to get a proper diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment. Untimely seeking medical help can lead to complications and disruption of fracture healing.

Toe deformity

Toe deformity is a change in the shape and position of the toe, which can be caused by various reasons. One of the most common finger deformities is the croaker, or lupus.

A croaker is a deformity of the finger in which the joint becomes bulging and inflamed. Lupus often develops due to improper footwear, especially those with tight toes and high heels. Also, the slab can be hereditary or result from an injury.

Another type of finger deformity is hammer toe deformity. With this deformity, the knuckle of the finger is bent and the tip of the finger is pointing down. Hammerhead deformity most often develops due to long-term wearing of tight shoes or due to weakness of the foot muscles.

When the finger becomes deformed, certain symptoms occur. The patient may experience pain, swelling, and redness in the area of ​​the deformed toe. When walking or standing, discomfort or an unpleasant sensation may occur.

To diagnose a deformity of the finger, the doctor examines and palpates the finger. In some cases, x-rays may be needed to more accurately determine the degree of deformity.

Finger deformity treatment depends on its cause and degree. In some cases, simple measures are sufficient, such as wearing comfortable shoes, using orthopedic insoles, or exercises to strengthen the muscles of the foot. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to correct the deformity.

Prevention of toe deformity includes proper footwear, avoidance of tight and high heels, and regular exercise to strengthen the muscles of the foot.

It is important to see a doctor at the first sign of finger deformity in order to receive timely diagnosis and effective treatment.

Diagnosis of a fracture of the big toe

Diagnosis of a fracture of the big toe is based on the history, physical examination and additional instrumental studies. The doctor can use the following methods for diagnosis:

  • History taking. The doctor asks questions about the injury, the symptoms and the duration of their manifestation.
  • Physical examination. The doctor examines the thumb for swelling, bleeding, visible deformity or displacement.
  • Palpation. The doctor feels the finger for tenderness and bone displacement.
  • Radiography. X-ray examination allows you to determine the presence and nature of the fracture, as well as assess the displacement of the bones.
  • Computed tomography (CT). CT scan may be ordered in case of a complex fracture or the need for more detailed visualization of damaged tissues.

After carrying out diagnostic measures, the doctor can determine the nature and severity of the fracture, as well as choose the most effective method of treatment.


Imaging is the first step in diagnosing a fractured big toe. The doctor examines and evaluates the appearance of the finger, and also pays attention to the following signs:

  • Edema – an increase in the volume of the finger, caused by the accumulation of fluid in the soft tissues;
  • Hematoma bruising or bruising at the site of a fracture due to vascular injury;
  • Deformity – a change in the shape of the finger, which can be caused by displacement or damage to the bones;
  • Pain – Pain when touching or moving a finger;
  • Traffic restriction – difficulty or impossibility of flexion or extension of the finger;
  • Pathological mobility – unnatural movement of the finger during palpation;
  • Finger position – deviation of the finger from the normal position, for example, to the side or up.

The doctor may also evaluate the pulsation and compare the length of the fingers to check for asymmetry. An additional examination, such as X-ray or computed tomography, may be required to more accurately diagnose and determine the type of fracture.


X-ray is one of the main methods for diagnosing fractures of the big toe. With the help of X-rays, the doctor can get a detailed picture of the bones and determine the presence and nature of the damage.

An x-ray procedure of the leg is performed using an x-ray machine. The patient is asked to take a certain position, during which the picture is taken. To obtain more accurate results, several shots in different projections may be required.

The radiograph shows the presence of a fracture, its type (transverse, longitudinal, oblique, etc.), the degree of displacement of bone fragments, the presence of comminutedness and other damage.

Radiography also allows you to determine the need for surgery and choose the method of treatment. Based on the results of the x-ray, the doctor may decide whether to wear a cast, use a brace, or perform surgery.

All metal objects must be removed from the patient in order to take x-rays of the big toe, as they may distort the results of the examination. It is also important to tell your doctor if you are pregnant, as x-rays can negatively affect the development of the fetus.

In general, radiography is a reliable and affordable method for diagnosing fractures of the big toe. X-ray results help the doctor determine the nature of the damage and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Computed tomography

Computed tomography (CT) is one of the methods for diagnosing fractures of the big toe. This is a non-invasive study that allows you to get more detailed and accurate images of bones and tissues.

During a CT scan, the patient is placed on a special table that passes through a hole in the scanner. The patient must remain still during the scan to obtain clear images. X-ray exposure occurs during the scan, but the radiation dose is usually small and does not pose a health hazard.

Computed tomography allows you to evaluate the condition of the bones and determine the presence of a fracture, its type and location. CT can also help identify associated injuries, such as joint or vascular damage.

After the CT scan, the results are processed by a computer, which allows the doctor to obtain detailed sections of the images and reconstruction of the bones. This helps the doctor to more accurately determine the diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Computed tomography is an important method for diagnosing fractures of the big toe, as it provides more accurate and detailed images than conventional x-rays. It allows the doctor to more accurately determine the nature and location of the fracture, which helps in choosing the most effective treatment.

Treating a fractured big toe

A fractured big toe is a serious injury that requires immediate treatment. The main goal of fracture treatment is to restore the structure and function of the finger, as well as to prevent possible complications.

During the initial examination and diagnosis, the doctor determines the type of fracture, its characteristics and the presence of associated injuries. Depending on the severity of the injury, surgery or conservative treatment may be required.

Conservative treatment of a broken toe includes:

  • Immobilization – applying a plaster cast or a special orthosis to fix the toe in the correct position. This helps to prevent movement of bone fragments and promotes their fusion.
  • Pain medications – to relieve pain and reduce inflammation around the fracture.
  • Physical Therapy – after removal of the cast or orthosis, therapeutic physical training may be prescribed to restore the strength and mobility of the finger.

Surgical treatment may be required in cases where the fracture is accompanied by displacement of bone fragments or violation of the integrity of adjacent tissues.