Toe Fractures: Breaking the Little Bones
Size isn’t always a great indicator of importance. The circuits in a microchip are miniscule, but they are vital for many technologies to function. When something is small, however, it can often be fragile. Your toes are small but important for your ability to push off the ground and walk. However, they can be painfully easy to break. Toe fractures are uncomfortable and can make walking difficult, so you shouldn’t brush them off.
Your small toes each have three thin bones that make up those digits, while your big toe has two thicker ones. Any of these little bones can break under the right pressure. This could be the result of stubbing your foot on something solid, tripping, dropping something heavy on your foot, getting kicked, or any other trauma to your digits. The sudden impact or hard pressure is more than your toe bones can handle, and one or more breaks.
This can make walking and being active very uncomfortable for you—but it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use your foot. Most people will still be able to walk, albeit with pain, after a toe fracture. You might even think it’s just a stubbed toe that will improve with time. A broken toe, however, will continue to be at least somewhat painful without treatment, especially when you use your foot. The digit will swell up and probably bruise. A more severe break might actually make your toe appear crooked.
Exactly how a broken toe is treated will depend on the severity of the damage. Our team at The Kansas Foot Center will carefully evaluate your digits using diagnostic images like X-rays to identify the extent of the problem. That will determine what treatments your toes need to heal correctly.
Your toe needs to be properly aligned and immobilized so the bones can heal. For a small fracture that is properly aligned, all your toe might need is a basic splint to keep it still as the broken tissue knits back together. One effective way to do this is through buddy-taping. This technique tapes your broken toe to a healthy toe, so the healthy digit can act like a splint. This is fairly easy to do. Placing a layer of gauze between the two toes to protect them from friction, tape them together carefully. You’ll need to change the gauze and tape regularly until the bone tissue heals. While your toes are buddy-taped, be sure to wear protective shoes with a roomy toe box.
Treating Serious Toe Fractures
A bigger, more serious toe fracture may require more involved care. A crooked digit will have to be realigned and held immobile to heal. This might involve a special stiff-soled boot or walking cast to hold your whole foot still. In rare cases, if the bones won’t stay in place, you might need surgery to straighten them and use pins or other hardware to hold the broken ends together.
No matter how your toe is immobilized, however, you’ll need to rest your foot and take a break from any strenuous activities. Limit how much you walk if you can. Use ice to decrease swelling and inflammation. As the bones heal, you’ll be able to slowly return to activities. There may be a process of reconditioning your foot to handle stress.
Whether a toe fracture is mild or serious, don’t ignore pain and risk deformities or other complications in your forefoot. Your toes are an important part of your structure that many people take for granted. Let our team at The Kansas Foot Center help you heal your toes today. Contact our offices in Wichita, Newton, or Emporia for more information about broken toes or a consultation for your feet. You can reach us through our website or by calling (316) 283-4330.