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Is My Toe Stubbed or Broken? 6 Tips For Assessing Your Injury

We’ve all been there. That moment when you're rushing around your home barefoot and BAM! You slam your toe into the corner of a table leg, or some other object, in your path. That excruciating, familiar pain shooting through your big toe can seem like the death of you, but how can you tell how much damage was really done? Did you just stub your toe, or is it something worse? The experts at Kansas City Foot Specialists are here to help you find out. 

What's the Difference Between a Stubbed & Broken Toe? 

While stubbing your toe may seem earth-shattering, breaking it can be far worse. A stubbed toe is simply a toe that's been badly slammed, and may show signs of swelling or bruising, but there is no serious injury under the surface. However, a broken toe is a more severe injury with harsher symptoms and greater consequences: prolonged pain, stiffness, infection, and deformity.

Knowing the difference between a stubbed and broken toe is crucial to preventing further injury, and while the pain may make it seem like you broke your toe, it's important to assess your pain accurately (and often) to determine if you'll need an x-ray and further treatment. Here are some more tips to help you decide what's best to do next. 

Time Will Tell 

Just after the injury, there is no way to avoid that inevitable pain, but how long the pain remains will be a clue to whether or not it’s broken. If it only hurts for a couple of hours, then it’s probably just stubbed. If it hurts the rest of the day and longer, you may have a fracture or a broken bone. 

Discoloration & Bruising 

When you stub your toe, it’s normal to expect some bruising and even some blood under the toenail. But, if the discoloration lasts for a few days, if it spreads, or if it seems like there is too much blood under the nail, you might have a broken toe. Pay attention to the color too! Is it the same color as your bruises normally are? Or is it darker or more abnormal? These could be signs of a more serious injury.

Assess the Shape 

If you compare your injured toe to its matching partner on your other foot, and there’s a noticeable difference in shape, you may need to see a doctor. If your toe is slightly crooked or stuck in a bent position, either upwards or downwards, it’s in your best interest to get an x-ray.

Think It's Broken? Time for the Next Steps

If all signs point to a broken toe, it’s time to get off of it and get some help. We suggest elevating your toe and icing it until you can see your podiatrist for further examination. Depending on the severity of your break or fracture, our foot specialists will recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Splinting the broken toe

  • Securing your toe to another toe to prevent further strain

  • Suggesting protective and corrective footwear

  • To correct a severe fracture, your doctor may need to reset the fracture with surgery

How Long Does for a Broken Toe Take to Heal?

While it all depends on the severity of your injury, most broken toes take between four and six weeks to fully heal. In those weeks of healing, your podiatrist may recommend other treatment options or leave you with instructions for at-home care. No matter how long it takes to heal, it’s extremely important to follow your doctor’s instructions to ensure it heals properly.

Need to see a Doc? Schedule an appointment online or give us a call at (913) 338-4440! Think you may have a bigger problem? Download our free E-book to learn more:

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