Broken toe injuries are most often caused by blunt forces such as a heavy object being dropped on the foot or stubbing your toe against a hard surface.
A broken toe can be immobilised with the buddy toe method, which is taping the affected toe to the adjacent toe. However, in the case of a severe fracture a cast or sling may be required. Surgery may also be necessary should the fracture be extremely serious. These options are particularly relevant to fractures of the big toe.
Mild broken toe injuries usually heal within four to six weeks. Occasionally a broken toe may get infected, which can delay the healing process. Broken toes; depending on other injuries, the location and severity of the fracture, could also lead to people becoming more susceptible to osteoporosis later in life.
Fractures to the phalanges of the toes usually occur from direct trauma – usually from a heavy object being dropped on the foot. Stress fractures to the big toe are most common in young adolescent athletes.
The most common toe fractures involve the big toe and the little or pinky toe. This is because these two toes are not as protected as the toes in the middle of the foot. As such, the big toe and little toe are more exposed to the environment.
Signs and symptoms of broken toe injures include:
- Skin discolouration
The following treatment steps may help resolve symptoms of a broken toe:
- Over-the-counter pain medication
Pain can be relieved with pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication if pain due to fracture is more severe.
This is a medical process which involves manipulating ill-fitting broken fragments of the bone back into their original positions. In most cases, this process does not require making an incision on the skin. Ice or anesthesia may be used to the numb the affected toe.
The broken toe can be immobilised using various techniques such as taping, wearing a stiff-bottomed shoe or applying a cast.Taping is a method through which your heath care practitioner will tape the affected toe with an unaffected adjacent toe. Therefore, the uninjured toe will act as a splint and provide support to the broken toe. In order to prevent skin irritation, make sure some felt or gauze is applied between the toes before taping them.Stiff-bottom shoes for broken toes are post-surgical shoes that are firm at the bottom and soft at the top, enclosed with Velcro. This will support your broken toe and prevent it from flexing.Your doctor may also apply a cast if the fragments of the affected toe do not fit in their right positions. A cane or crutches may be needed to help support walking.
Surgery is needed for complicated injuries. The surgeon may use screws, pins or plates to help the toe maintain a proper position until the injury has been completely healed.
Physiotherapy for broken toe injuries involves the practice of exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist to redevelop the movement and strength of the toe. The health professionals at iPhysioPerth see many broken toes and utilise the best and most efficient exercises to get you back on track. The exercises a physiotherapist at Happy Physio will demonstrate to you will also have positive effects on other areas of your body and promote overall health and wellbeing.
Some exercises you could expect to receive from a physiotherapist at Happy Physio include:
- Range of motion exercises. In this exercise you have to use your hands to bend the affected toe joint. Try to gently straighten out the toe with your hand and repeat slowly, holding onto each position for 5 seconds. Perform this motion ten times, three times a day.
- Towel pickup. Place a towel on the ground and pick the towel using your toe, keeping the heel on the ground, and then release. Repeat 10-20 times. You can increase the intensity of the exercise gradually as it becomes easier. Trying to pick up the towel with a small weight on it, such as a book, can do this.
- Towel stretch. Sit on the ground with the unaffected foot on the floor and the other leg extended before you. Loop a towel around the ball of your foot and the toes and gently pull the towel backwards with your knees straight. Hold on to this position for 15-30 seconds and perform 3 times.
- Standing toe raise. Standing up with your feet flat on the ground, gently lift the foot off the ground starting with the heel and peeling through the toes. Maintain this position for 5 seconds and perform 3 sets of 10.
- Heel raise. Stand behind a chair to balance yourself. Using the chair to support you, raise your body with your toes for 5 seconds. Try to then lower yourself slowly without holding the chair – however you may hold onto it if you need to. When the exercise becomes less painful for you, perform this exercise on one foot. Repeat 10 times, three times a day.
If you would like to understand how to do these exercises correctly and learn more about how to recover from your broken toe, please do not hesitate to contact Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359. Our friendly administration and health team would be more than happy to help you get back to your optimal self.