Broken toe 

  • Overview

Introduction 

Caring for your broken toe at home

  • Put a piece of cotton wool or gauze between your injured toe and the one next to it and tape the two toes together with a plaster. The healthy toe will act as a splint. 
  • Keep your foot raised for as long as possible, for example by resting it on cushions. This will help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Hold an ice pack (try frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) to the toe for 15-20 minutes every one to two hours for the first couple of days. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Rest the toe by not walking or standing for too long, and not putting weight on the toe.
  • Take over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen to relieve the pain, but do not give aspirin to a child under 16 years of age.
  • Wear sturdy shoes that do not squash or bend the toe.

A broken toe is a common injury, usually caused by dropping a heavy object on the foot or hitting the toe on something. It usually takes four to six weeks to heal.

A break or a crack in a bone is also known as a fracture.

This advice is about the care of a toe following an injury. If you're not sure whether the toe is broken or just badly injured, don't worry – in most cases, a painful and swollen toe caused by an injury should be cared for at home, regardless of whether or not it is broken. Learn more about sprains and strains.

If you have a painful swollen toe but no injury, see your GP, especially if you have diabetes.

How do I know if I’ve broken my toe?

A broken toe will be painful, swollen and red. There may be bruising of the skin around the area and sometimes a collection of blood beneath the toenail. You will find it difficult to walk and wearing a shoe will be painful.

If the break is severe, the toe may stick out at an angle.

Most broken toes can be cared for at home and medical treatment may not be necessary.

When to see your GP

Check the toe every day and call your GP if:

  • The pain gets worse or is not relieved by ordinary painkillers. Your GP may be able to prescribe a stronger painkiller.
  • The swelling or discolouration doesn’t improve after a few days
  • You have a wound near the injured toe, which will need cleansing to prevent infection.

When to go to hospital

Go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if:

  • your toes are cold and numb or tingling (as you may have damaged the nerves)
  • the skin on your toe has turned blue or grey
  • you have severely injured the toe

Severe toe fractures

If the break is severe and bone has broken away at an angle, this will need to be moved back into place during a procedure known as a reduction. 

You will be given an injection of local anaesthetic to numb the area and doctors can often realign the bone through the skin without making any cuts.

If a break is particularly severe, surgery may be needed so that special pins or screws can be fixed to the broken bone to keep it in place while it heals.

A broken big toe may need to be supported in a cast. If a lot of blood is trapped underneath the toenail and it is very painful, the blood will need to be drained through a small hole made in your nail, or the nail will need to be removed.

You may be given crutches so you can walk without putting weight on the toe.

A broken toe bone that has pierced the skin and damaged the surrounding tissue may become infected, so the wound will need to be cleansed regularly.




Page last reviewed: 12/12/2012

Next review due: 12/12/2014

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Comments

The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

BeccaS92 said on 07 April 2014

I went to a&e after having a painful swollen toe to be told I had a broken toe. It's the 2nd toe on my right foot. They said they could put a cast on but they weren't going to because it looked it had been broken a while! A couple if years down the line and I still get pain from it. And at the moment the end of my toe is very painful and red! My mums got a broken toe and they never did anything for her either so she still suffers.

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sweetberry786 said on 30 January 2014

My cousin broke his big toe by kicking the ball to hard, he went hospital they gave him tape to tap his toes after 2 weeks he went back since he was called and his toe was not healing so they gave him a special shoe for the toe and he also found out that he might get orthorusis when he gets older!!

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vikkia1 said on 02 February 2013

daughter aged 8 droppeda big plank of wood on big toe took her the hospital they said soft tissue damage. They wouldnt x ray it. It was swollen and very bruised. i thought it was broken. They strapped it up and told her to walk on it. Its very painfull she cant walk on it we had to buy her crutchs so she could walk. Her toes and feet and leg upto her are freezing cold im getting worried and think i should take her back to the hospital. And get it checked again as i think there wrong.

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annaf36 said on 21 June 2012

I dropped my hair dryer onto my left big toe 4 days ago. I went to the hospital where they did an X-ray, said there wasn't any breakages, and then drained the blood from under the nail.
Today at work I got a phone call from the hospital I went to, saying that they were sorry but the doctor had missed that the end of the bone was fractured and several pieces of bone were loose!! Wondered why it was still so ridiculously painful to walk around on.
My doctor says though that they won't do anything with it, so have given me painkillers.
Now have a phobia of my hair dryer!!

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KX101 said on 28 May 2012

A very helpful write up on a toe problem, I don't feel that my toe is broken. I tripped and bent all my toes under the foot , the top of the foot is swollen and painful when walking , also it feels if there is a swelling under the foot when walking. My foot is now in iced water

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ImTakingControl said on 24 April 2012

Thank you very much for this information :) I have just this morning broken my little toe - its very painful i have splinted it to my next toe and now keeping my foot up so thanks for the excellent advice

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