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Banged up toe, now shooting pains

by Lori

I smashed my baby toe a month ago...I assumed I just really bruised it because it was totally purple the next day, but I could move it fine and walking was no problem. Over the next couple weeks though, it seemed to get worse the more I walked, even after the bruising went away. It swells when I am walking too much and wearing even loose shoes all of a sudden when I walk, I am getting an excruciating sharp pain under my foot on the side of the toe I hit..I really dont think its broken because I can move it..any thoughts?



Hi Lori,

I cannot begin to tell you how many patients, over the years, have said to me they do not think their toe is broken, only to have an x-ray and find out that there is actually a fracture.

Think of it this way. If the toe was only bruised and not broken when you "smashed" it then by now it should have been fairly close to healed. Yes, walking on it constantly and wearing closed shoes does slow down the healing process but even so, you should have been noticing gradual improvement. In your case, the symptoms seem to be worsening, not improving.

So...there is a very real chance you may have fractured the toe and that is why it is worsening rather than improving. The only way you are going to know for sure is with an x-ray.

Here is where the problem lies. Any fracture has the best chance of healing without complication, the sooner it is treated.

In your case a month has now passed without any type of treatment. If there is a fracture than ideally it should have been addressed when the trauma first occurred.

The notion that "there is nothing you can do for a broken toe" could not be further from the truth. A broken bone is a broken bone regardless of where it occurs.

In most cases of simple fractures of toes, we tape the broken toe to the adjacent toe and that stabilizes the fracture site so that the break may heal.

Assuming the possibility of a fracture you have now gone one month without any stabilization, so in theory, the fracture may have possibly worsened. This might explain why the toe pain seems to be worsening rather than getting better.

Here is my suggestion. Go get an x-ray so you know exactly what kind of problem you are dealing with.

If there is what is known as a non-displaced fracture meaning essentially just a crack in the bone, then taping the two toes together may be all you need.

If the fracture is worse and there is displacement of either side of the break, you may be able to try taping to see if fracture gap will fill in. If not, sometimes surgery is required.

If you get real lucky and there is no fracture, but your pain is just a result of being on the foot too much and the toe is being irritated from your shoes, then taping as well, will make the toe feel better and over the next couple of weeks, the pain should subside.

Bottom line...without an x-ray, you do not really know what you are dealing with.

Marc Mitnick DPM

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