Of the 26 bones in your feet, 19 of those are toe bones called phalanges. Fractures of the toes do require evaluation by a specialist. Often times, delayed diagnosis and treatment of these fractures result in prolonged pain and disability. Even if you received initial treatment in an emergency or urgent care, a foot and ankle surgeon should be seen for proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

What Is a Fracture?

A fracture is a break in a bone. Fractures can come about as a result of trauma or stress. Traumatic fractures are caused by a direct blow or impact, such as seriously stubbing your toe. Traumatic fractures can be displaced or non-displaced. If the fracture is displaced, the bone is broken in such a way that it has changed position.

Signs and Symptoms of a Traumatic Fracture

• A sound at the time of the break
• Pinpoint pain
• A crooked or abnormal appearance
• Bruising or swelling the next day
• It is not true that “if you can walk on it, it’s not broken.”

Consequences of Improper Treatment

Some people will say there’s nothing you can do for a fractured toe. That is not true. In fact, if a fractured toe is not treated correctly, serious complications may develop.

For example:
• Deformity in the bony architecture may limit the ability to move the foot or cause difficulty in fitting shoes.
• Arthritis may be caused by a fracture in the joint.
• An angular deformity develops when a displaced fracture is severe or hasn’t been properly corrected.
• Chronic pain and deformity develops.
• Non-union or failure to heal can lead to subsequent surgery or chronic pain.

Treatment of Toe Fractures

Treatment for fractures depends on the break itself and may include these options:

Rest: Sometimes, rest is all that’s needed to treat a traumatic toe fracture.

Splinting: The toe may be fitted with a splint to keep it in a fixed position.

Rigid or stiff-soled shoes: Wearing stiff-soled shoes protects the toe and helps to keep it properly positioned.

“Buddy-taping”: Taping the fracture toe to another toe is sometimes appropriate, but in other cases, it may be harmful.

Surgery: If the break is badly displaced or if the joint is affected, surgery may be necessary.

If you have injured your foot or suspect a possible injury, visit one of the Bay Area Foot Care locations. There, a foot and ankle surgeon will use an on-site X-ray machine that can help diagnose and then properly treat your fracture.

We operate in office and hospital in convenient locations including San Francisco, Pleasanton, Castro Valley, Oakland, Walnut Creek, and Sacramento. Call 1 (800) 871-8606 to schedule your visit today. Also find us on ZocDoc.com.

• This information has been prepared by the Consumer Education Committee of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Copyright 2010, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. www.foothealthfacts.org