Toe injuries may not be life threatening in most cases, but they can definitely slow down any athletic endeavor. Here are some tips to make sure that you’re doing everything you can in order to expedite healing while the injury is happening, as well as both directly after and in the long term.
Wear Proper Shoes
One thing that can help you make sure that you do what you can to lessen toe injuries while they’re happening is wearing the right footwear for the sport that you’ll be participating in. For example, obviously you should avoid trying to toe a kick in football if you want to reduce toe injuries during the game, but prevention can help here too since wearing proper soccer cleats instead of trying to kick a ball real hard wearing some soft shoe is also important.
The amount of pain you feel during a toe injury may not be enough to tell for sure whether you have a break or not. However, possible signs of a broken toe including the following:
- Severe Pain-Obviously, pain isn’t enough by itself, but severe pain should be enough to get you to start wondering.
- Swelling- Your body will often pump more blood into an area to try and deal with injuries like a broken toe. This also doesn’t absolutely mean that the toe is broken since a sprain could cause this too, but it means it’s worth looking into more.
- Visible Deformities-This include anything that looks out of place, such as excessive bruising, toenails that look damaged or off, and so on.
- Walking and Shoe Troubles-If your shoes suddenly start to feel too tight or like they don’t fit, this could be a sign. Anytime you aren’t walking right when you try is also an indicator.
Any of these signs could mean a broken toe if it starts hurting during or after a sporting event you’re in, or at any other time. Fortunately, this injury often only takes about 6 weeks to heal. You can generally make a full recovery with this type of injury as long as you treat it right away. If you don’t, then you could end up with lasting problems that could impair your ability to play your sport in the long-term such as long-term stiffness, arthritis, a change in the operation of the area, or permanent pain when you apply pressure.
Treating Broken Toes Right Away
If you do suspect a bone injury, depending on the severity and type of situation you should do the following:
- Treat Visible Bones with Extreme Caution-If there’s a bone sticking out on any point on your foot including around the toe area, it’s important to not touch it. This is obviously a breakage, and you need help immediately. Instead, you’re going to want to just clean the surrounding area and cover it carefully, preferably without making contact with the bone.
- Free Stuck Toes If Feasible-If your toe gets stuck anywhere like a net, a hole, or anything else on the field or in another piece of equipment, it’s a good idea to try to free it if you can as long as it’s not going to cause you additional trouble. This might mean cutting away netting, for example. If it’s stuck bad enough, it could be good to wait for a professional, but generally anything that it’s stuck in could cause a further threat to the toe through cutting off circulation.
- Take Off Rings-If you’re wearing a ring on your toe it’s a good idea to take it off absolutely right away. This is because if the bone is broken, the toe could swell up and then the ring will be impossible to get off. This can also end up being disastrous because the trapped ring can cut off blood circulation which would cause even more problems and endanger the toe.
Tape for Other Toe Injuries
If it turns out that your toe isn’t broken and merely sprained or even just sore, there are a few things you can do to speed up your recovery such as:
- Tape It-Wrapping buddy tape around a toe can be an effective way to make the sprained toe hurt less and speed its recovery. This only works if you don’t diabetes or other complications such as peripheral arterial disease. This option is called “buddy-taping” and it’s called this because you essentially tape the injured to one of the other toes, making sure to put some kind of padding in between them such as foam. This method can speed your recovery up so that it only takes as little as 2 weeks or as long as a month to heal.
- Keep the Swelling Down-This includes using so-called “RICE” techniques, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It’s good to check your toe periodically to see how it’s going and use this technique if the pain and swelling are up. Massaging or rubbing the area can help to get blood flowing and reduce pain a bit. If this hurts instead, then obviously you shouldn’t do it.
- Clear Wounds and Keep Checking-Shortly after the injury and for as long as needed after, you need to clean up the wound with antibacterial cream in order to get dirt and anything else out of there. Some bacteria can actually occur due to a puncture wound that goes through the shoe, for example.
You’re also going to want to remove any rings, just like if you thought the toe was broken.
Another approach that can help is trying out certain exercises such as:
- Basic Motion Exercises-Even just moving the affected area as quickly as a day or two after the injury can really help with blood flow. Obviously, you need to stop immediately if you feel any pain. But trying out a full range of motion as soon as you can when the swelling is down enough is a good idea. It’s also recommended that you do some stretching carefully and slowly with your toes, flexing them and stretching them out slowly as needed. This can reduce the possibility of permanent tightness.
- The Curl Approach-One innovative exercise approach is to sit down and put a small towel on the floor near you. Make sure that the surface of the floor is a smooth one such as hardwood. Then you curl your toes and try to grab the towel at one end until it’s bunched up there. Then you release the towel, straighten your toes a bit, reach further down the towel and try again, bunching up the towel further down its length. Then, you can go in the other direction, smoothing the towel out and pushing it away from you. This can help create strength and range of motion in your toes again. If pain or swelling occurs, always stop immediately.
- Alphabet Exercises-In order to encourage reaching a full range of motion in your toe, you can move your ankle and toe as if you were writing the alphabet in the sand with your two. This helps make sure you get all the range of movement with the digit.