Myth Busting 101: The Broken Toe

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Although we live in a world where everything is debatable and it’s nearly impossible to reach a unanimous agreement on anything, there’s one simple truth that is undisputed by all: there is nothing more painful than the unexpected stubbing of your toe. We’ve all done it and felt that overwhelming desire to fall to the ground crying in pain. It can quickly turn a casual barefoot stroll around the house into a nightmare in seconds. In instances where you stub your toe hard enough, it can actually break your toe.

Broken toes are common injuries that can occur after many events beyond just stubbing your toe, including dropping a heavy object on them or from repetitive stress from certain sports activities. Although broken toes are well known, the treatment of them seems to be clouded with many unknowns and falsehoods. Here are the common sayings you should be skeptical of next time someone tries to give you “advice” for your broken toe:

“There’s nothing a doctor can do for a broken toe” –False. This widespread idea is not only untrue, but can sometimes be harmful to patients who suffer from these injuries. If a fractured toe is not treated promptly and correctly, serious complications may develop including bone deformities, arthritis, chronic pain, and long-term dysfunction. A doctor can X-ray your toes and many times prevent these long-term effects through conservative, but effective, treatment.

“It can’t be broken because I can still move it!” –False. This is another harmful wives tale that is frequently heard. Although it may be possible to move your toe and walk around on it, avoid doing so as this can lead to even greater damage and prolonged healing time.

“Any toe injury should be soaked in hot water immediately” -False. If you suspect your toe (or any bone) is broken, hot water or any heat applied to the area can make it worse! Heat causes an increase in blood flow, which leads to more swelling and more pain. Instead, apply an ice pack for a maximum of 15-20 minutes to help numb your toe and decrease swelling. However, it’s important to not overdo it, as too much ice may cause frostbite.

How can you tell if your toe is broken? Symptoms include pain, bruising, swelling, discoloration of the toenail and/or the toe, and a crooked abnormal appearance of the toe. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to get it checked out by your doctor right away. Make an appointment at the Advance Foot and Ankle Care Center nearest you, where doctors can put these myths to rest and make sure your simple broken toe doesn’t turn into a long-term nuisance.

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