Sunday, January 8, 2012

Treatment for a dislocated or broken toe

Have you recently dislocated or broken a toe? I did -- Christmas Day. I walked into a chair leg and it went between my toes. I immediately thought that I had to go to the hospital but I researched treatment on the internet. I was rather discouraged with what I found so that is why I am writing this post based on my own experience.

First though, I will share my research:
The rest of this post is a combination of the advice of the above websites, my doctor and my own personal experience. I am not a doctor nor a healthcare professional nor do I claim to be. This is just my experience that I decided to write down and share with others.

What I learned from this experience:

Immediate action: PAIN! 
  • Go to the emergency room - depending on the severity. You don't need to call an ambulance but if you punctured the skin then you might want to see a doctor. Prepare to sit there for a long time though because this is not considered a serious injury. I personally did not go to the emergency room because we were able to pop the toe back into place. At the very least, call your doctor and make an appointment TODAY.
  • Assess if the toe is broken or dislocated. I was able to move mine so we determined that it wasn't broken but it really hurt to do so.
  • Tape the toe back into place. We did this immediately and this is what saved my toe. Use medical tape and tape the toe to the entire foot -- I personally didn't like buddy-taping (taping two toes together). If the toe is broken, the toe might be taped with linen tape then buddy-taped.
  • Ice the area for 15 minutes every hour or two hours.
  • Sit down and elevate the foot.
  • Don't walk on it or walk with assistance.
  • Take a sick day from work.
Day 1-3: The toe will swell up and turn a variety of colors from blue to purple. You may also notice bruising on the other side of the foot. Half of my entire foot was blue and the toe was numb.
  • Rest; try not to walk unless absolutely necessary (ex. going to the bathroom).
  • Ice the affected area every 2 hours for 15-20 minutes.
  • Keep the toe and foot elevated when you sit.
  • Take Ibuprofen for the pain. It's an anti-inflammatory.
  • Tape the toe or group of toes together with medical tape.
  • Wear comfortable slippers that have padding around that area to give you a cushion should you happen to step on it. Don't wear shoes -- they will most likely not fit anyways.
  • Get into the doctor. Although, don't be disappointed when he/she notes that there is nothing that can be done for this kind of injury (unless you have one fabulously broken toe or toes). Make sure to talk to your doctor about physiotherapy and get a referral.
  • If you work in a job that requires you to be on your feet, you need to call your employer to tell them about your injury and ask if there is anything that you can do while you are sitting. If not, you may have to take more sick leave for a few days.
  • If you have a foot bath with jets or a tub with jets, take a bath. Put your toe over the jet -- does it hurt too much? Then wait a week. If not, let the jet do the work.
  • Consider wearing compression socks like those for diabetics.
Day 4-7: still swollen but not as much. The bruising is still there but it should be purple, not blue. It still hurts but not quite as much.

  • Keep taping the toe. I thought that I didn't need to but believe me, tape it. It helps a lot when you try to walk. It also helps when you involuntarily wiggle your toes. Don't believe me? You will and you won't believe how many times you just wiggle your toes around without thinking about it per day. Taping keeps this from hurting.
  • Ice the area a few times per day for 15 minutes.
  • Wear comfortable, roomy shoes if you have to walk. Do not wear closed toe shoes or anything that pinches that area. Your entire foot is most likely still swollen.
  • When you walk, try to find a method that does not put pressure on the toe. This means that you will be limping (which is fine). After walking though, massage your calf muscles and do some ankle exercises. I found that by limping I really strained these areas.
  • By limping, you may notice that your whole body is out of whack. Now, because I can't walk correctly, my calves and ankles hurt, by back hurts, etc. So try not to walk much or stretch these areas really well as often as you can to keep limber.
  • Call the nearest reputable physiotherapy clinic and make an appointment for an assessment.
  • Try to wiggle the affected toe. You should be able to move it gently by this time without too much pain. A few times per day, consciously make an effort to move it back and forth. If anything, this boosts your morale that your toe will heal.
  • If you are working, wear slippers at work. Wear shoes only when you absolutely have to.
  • If you take public transport, try to find a way to carpool. I can tell you, working was fine but taking the buses to work and all of the walking that I did sure did not help my toe. Plus, I looked like a hunchback walking around with a limp.
Weeks 1-4:
  • Keep doing all of the above from days 4-7: icing, taping, etc. You might not think that it is necessary but it sure helps.
  • See a physiotherapist at least twice per week and do the exercises recommended.
  • Do some stretches for your back, hips, thighs, calves and ankles because they most likely hurt from the limping. Do this as often as you can.
  • Stuff your shoes around the toe. I did this because my boots didn't fit quite right and I needed to support that toe or it REALLY hurt to walk. I found that this helped whenever I needed to walk.
  • If you have stuffed your shoes, try your best to walk normally. This will help your body re-equalize. 
*This is where my experience is right now. I will update when I have more information.
And, until your toe is completely healed and you are walking (even running) without any pain, don't do any of these activities:
  • Exercise that requires your feet. This is walking, running, snowshoeing, skiiing, etc. This includes dancing to songs (even if it's with your feet) or getting up too quickly out of a chair. 
  • Foot massages. Especially if it's a professional masseuse that does a hard massage.
  • Pedicures from a professional. Get a friend to do it.
  • Get on your knees for something then get back up: try it then you will see why. How do you balance to get back up? 
  • Go barefoot. That's how I got into this predicament and my doctor told me to always wear slippers around the house.


  1. I broke my foot 7 weeks ago by falling in my kitchen and landing on my left foot. Went to the ER but all they did was ace wrap and tell me to see orthopedist that I had broken 5 bones in my foot. Did not show me X-rays or tell me the extent of my injuries. I think everything's almost healed as I bought a cars boot online and have been wearing it for 5 weeks. Not sure if the big toe was broken or dislocated. It points toward the others, looks like it turns up slightly. I have no insurance and cannot afford a specialist. Hoping I can walk on the boot next week. How do I tell if it was just broken or dislocated?

  2. This has been very helpful! Toes are very prone to injury and I often find myself accidentally banging them on stuff around the house (especially the smallest toe). It hurts but I never paid attention to them after a while. And these are from experience? That must have hurt a lot! Anyway, I think these tips are very effective ways in managing pain. It’s good to know what to do in a health emergency as a supplement to the instructions of your doctor or orthopedic.

    Scott Cravey @ US Health Works