Exams and Tests
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 film to see if a toe is broken or fractured.
- X-ray films are not always necessary to make the diagnosis of a broken toe, especially if the break is in one of the smaller toes.
Broken Toe Treatment Self-Care at Home
These are things that can be done at home to help decrease the pain and swelling and to help the fracture heal properly.
- Swelling that occurs after the injury worsens pain.
- To 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Usually only acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (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 will be helped by elevating the foot and using ice packs.
- 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.
- If the tape is replaced by the person with the toe injury, they should 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.
- A cast is usually not required for a simple toe fracture.
- A hard-soled, sturdy, and supportive shoe should be worn.
- A doctor may give 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.