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(Broken Toe; Fracture, Toe)
A toe fracture is a break in a toe bone. The bones in the toes are called phalanges.
|The Phalanges of the Foot|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
A toe fracture is caused by trauma to the bone. Trauma can result from:
- Dropping something on the toe
- Stubbing the toe
- Falling down
- A direct blow to the toe
Factors that may increase the chance of a toe fracture include:
- Increased age
- Poor nutrition
- Participating in contact sports
- Not wearing shoes
A toe fracture may cause:
- Swelling and tenderness
- Stiffness in the injured area
- Inability to move toe
- Bruising in injured area
- Numbness or tingling in the toes
- Visible deformity in the toe area
- Difficulty walking (sometimes)
You will be asked about your symptoms, level of physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The injured area will be examined. Your doctor may take an x-ray of the foot, but this is not always needed.
Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with the toe, such as immobility or misalignment. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:
Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep the toe in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include buddy taping (the injured toe is taped to healthy toes next to it), a walking cast, or a shoe with a stiff bottom.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. The doctor will need to put these pieces back into their proper place. This may be done:
- Without surgery—anesthesia will be used to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
- With surgery—pins or screws may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place
Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, a specialist may be needed. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain.
Rest and Recovery
The toe will need time to heal. Activities will need to be adjusted, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice and elevating the leg at rest will help with discomfort and swelling.
To help reduce the chance of a toe fracture:
- Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
- Wear proper fitting and appropriate shoes for any activity.
- Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
- Do weight-bearing and strengthening exercises regularly to build strong bones.
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
- Clean spills and slippery areas right away.
- Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.
- Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub.
- Put in handrails on both sides of stairways.
- Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls.
- Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Hatch RL, Hacking S. Evaluation and management of toe fractures [review]. Am Fam Physician. 2003;68(12):2413-2418.
Ribbans WJ, Natarajan R, Alavala S. Pediatric foot fractures. Clin Orthop. 2005;(432):107-115.
Toe and forefoot fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00165. Updated June 2016. Accessed September 1, 2017.
Toe phalanx fracture - emergency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T903310/Toe-phalanx-fracture-emergency-management . Accessed September 1, 2017.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
- Review Date: 09/2018
- Update Date: 09/30/2013