Stubbing of the little toe has probably led to more fours letter words being uttered in anger than almost any other injury. Even though our toes are little they can produce big pain if a fracture occurs.
The typical cause of injury is dropping a heavy object on the foot or kicking the bed post or table leg on the way to a late night bathroom run.
Diagnosis of a toe fracture is based on x-rays that will be performed at the doctor’s office prior to your examination. If a fracture is identified in most cases treatment will not require surgery. However, failure to get immediate treatment could lead to lifelong pain.
If the fracture to the toe(s) is in good alignment, not affecting a joint and is stable, treatment requires immobilization and rest. To immobilize the affected toe, it is buddy taped or splinted to its neighbor and the foot is placed in a flat bottom shoe that prevents movement of toe when walking. As a patient you may be prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication if significant pain or swelling has occurred, and be instructed to elevate and ice toe when at rest. Typically you will follow this protocol for 4-6 weeks.
If the fractured toe bones are not in unstable, good alignment, extends into a joint surface, or the bone is exposed through the skin, surgical repair is indicated to prevent long term arthritis or infection in the case of an open fracture. In most cases a pin will be used to hold fracture in place, and will be removed in the doctor’s office in 4-6 weeks. After surgery, immobilization in a flat bottom shoe/boot is required for 4-6 weeks. If surgery is not performed, long term pain can occur, as well as frequent use of four letter words with every painful step.
The moral of the story is that most toe injuries heal with immobilization and rest, if treated early. In order to prevent long term pain and disability, request an appointment to get your toes checked out!