Your toes are actually made up from several different bones, and after suffering a serious trauma, it is possible that one or more of these bones may fracture, causing a great deal of swelling and pain. A fracture is the name a medical professional gives to a bone that has a break in it and there are two main types of fractures: Stress fractures and traumatic fractures.Stress Fractures
Stress fractures, as you have probably already guessed, are the less serious type of fracture. They are minute, hairline breaks in the bone that are often caused by actions that are repeated over and over again. For example, many athletes suffer from stress fractures. As they attempt to improve performance, they compromise their form, putting extra pressure on their body. It is also possible that a stress fracture in one of the toes could develop due to deformities, conditions such as osteoporosis, or a irregularly shaped foot. Another factor that can potentially lead to the development of stress fractures is the type of footwear that is worn. While the symptoms of a stress fracture might not be as serious as those associated with a traumatic fracture, medical treatment should not be postponed otherwise the fracture may not heal correctly.Traumatic Fractures
You may also hear these referred to as "acute fractures" and they are caused by some kind of major trauma, such as a direct blow to your body. Think of the times when you have accidentally stubbed your toe; that's the kind of impact we are referring to. Traumatic fractures further divide into two separate categories; displaced or non-displaced fractures. Displaced fractures are where, as a result of the impact, the bone has not just broken, but its position has changed too.Symptoms of a Broken Toe
If you are not sure whether you have a broken toe, we are going to run through some of the symptoms you will generally experience.
- After sustaining a broken toe you can expect the toe to swell up and become stiff, and you will likely experience a considerable amount of pain.
- These symptoms may also be accompanied by some heavy bruising of the skin that surrounds the toe.
- You may also notice that the toe just doesn't look right; it might not be properly aligned and could be bent out of shape.
- When you attempt to walk, you may experience a considerable amount of pain when you put pressure on the toe, especially if it's the big toe that is affected.
- You may find it difficult to put your shoes on, and once they are on, they may feel overly tight.
There are a number of other problems that could occur if the proper treatment is not sought straight away. These "secondary" conditions may arise moments after the fracture is sustained or a considerable period of time afterwards.Broken Toe Treatment
If you suspect you have a broken toe we would recommend you seek professional medical attention as quickly as possible. However, in the event that you don't have access to such care immediately, the following conservative treatments can often help a broken toe.
- Resting the toe completely. Try to keep your weight off the toe as much as you possibly can. This means avoiding any type of exercise, standing upright or walking considerable distances. A doctor will usually provide you with crutches and a special types of "boot" to help you achieve this.
- Applying ice to the toe. As already mentioned, broken toes often become very swollen and applying ice soon after the injury is sustained is often beneficial. As a general rule, put an ice pack on the toe for 20 minute periods every couple of yours. Remember, don't apply the ice directly to your skin, as this can burn you (yes, ice can burn you!); instead wrap it in a towel.
- Elevate the toe. This is another trick that can help to keep swelling down and reduce the amount of pain you experience. Lie down and raise the foot above the level of your heart for best results.
Again, we must repeat that if you believe you have a broken toe, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. They will be able to provide you with a professional assessment, utilizing X-ray equipment if necessary and will be able to recommend the best course of treatment too. In less serious cases a broken toe may require no real treatment other than the methods we have just outlined, but more serious fractures may have a lengthy recovery time.