Broken Toe Diagnosis and Treatment

Symptoms of a Broken Toe

A broken toe may seem like a minor injury as it impacts a small bone. But if you have ever suffered from this type of break, you know how substantially it can impact your daily life. From pain to limited mobility, dealing with the aftermath of a toe injury can be very difficult.

If you suspect you may have broken your toe, you are likely in a lot of pain and considering whether or not you need to see and orthopaedic surgeon. So how do you know if it is broken and requiring medical attention? The following signs and symptoms can suggest a broken toe:

  • Swelling
  • Throbbing pain or pain that will not go away
  • Bruising or discoloring, including under the toenail
  • Numbness
  • Inability to bear weight on the toe
  • Disfigured or misshapen toe joint
  • Rigidness or inability to bend the toe


If you suspect you have broken your toe, it is wise to have it evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon, specifically a surgeon with a speciality in foot and ankle. Getting the proper diagnosis early will aid in the proper treatment.

Diagnosis will involve a physical exam in which the doctor will check for tenderness, swelling, discoloration and ability to move the toe. The exam may also involve an x-ray to confirm a break.


After diagnosis of a broken toe, the doctor will assess the appropriate treatment plan. In order to manage pain, the doctor might recommend over the counter pain medications such as Tylenol, Aleve or Ibuprofren.

In addition to pain management, stabilizing the toe to prevent it from moving will help it to heal properly. Some ways to accomplish this include wearing a post-surgical shoe with a stiff bottom, use of a walking cast, or “buddy taping” the broken toe to the toe next to it.

Although less common, some broken toes could require surgery in order to heal properly. For this reason, an evaluation by a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon would cover all bases. The surgeon is able to do a thorough evaluation and rule out whether or not a procedure is necessary.


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