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Fact or Fiction: There Is Nothing You Can Do For a Broken Toe?

Your alarm clock, conveniently located on the other side of your room, starts buzzing bright and early. No need to turn on the light…you know the way, BAM! You walk, barefoot, right into the dresser! Just like a cartoon character, you see stars. As your day continues, you can’t get past the throbbing pain. You know you have broken your toe.

Throughout the day your toe begins to bruise and swell. Wearing a shoe, or even walking, is excruciating, maybe even impossible. You know you need to call a doctor, but what did your mom always tell you? “There’s nothing you can do for a broken toe.” Will it be a waste of everyone’s time if you make an appointment with your podiatrist? Should you simply deal with the pain? But the pain is so bad…was your mom really right? Is the rumor true? When people tell you nothing can be done for a broken toe they normally mean that a cast is not applied. A cast, made of plaster or fiberglass, is the most recognizable treatment for a broken bone. Does that mean if you don’t cast it, you’re not treating the broken bone? No!


The great toe has two bones in it, with all others having three. Although small, they are classified as long bones, just like an arm or leg. When any bone, especially a long bone, breaks, it is very important to make sure that it is not displaced; otherwise it will not heal properly. During your appointment with us, we will take an X-ray and then be able to advise treatment. If the bone is not displaced, treatment can be as simple as applying a “buddy splint.” This is a splint that simply attaches the broken bone to an adjacent digit. This provides compression and stability.


If you have displaced the bone, most of the time we can realign the bone right here in the office. It involves numbing the toe and using traction to get the toe in a good position. In most severe cases, surgery may be necessary. I know you may find it hard to believe but sometimes broken toes can become a medical emergency! Anyone who has poor circulation, such as a person with diabetes or peripheral artery disease, can end up with a spasm of the small arteries caused by the trauma, which can shut down the blood supply to the toes.


If immediate care is sought, this can be reversed. If left untreated for even one day, however, amputation may be required. So next time someone tries to argue that there is nothing you can do for a broken toe, let them know that the doctors at Shenandoah Podiatry informed you otherwise. The sooner you receive care, the quicker the pain and swelling will be reduced. Don’t be fooled by the popular rumor, call us right away!