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Is My Toe Stubbed or Broken? 3 Tips to Help You Decide

Phalanx fracture at toe with splint and elastic gauze

It’s Important to Know in Case You Need Further Treatment
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.

How to Tell 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.

Give It Time

Just after the injury, there is no way to avoid that inevitable pain, but how long the pain remains will be a clue as 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.

Look for Dark Bruising and Discoloration

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.

Compare to Matching Toe on Other Foot

Assess the shape of your injured toe. 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.

What to Do if You Think It’s a Broken Toe

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

Expect a Broken Toe to Take 4-6 Weeks 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!