Definition

A toe fracture is a break in a toe bone.

The Phalanges of the Foot
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Causes

This injury is caused by trauma from:

  • Dropping something on the toe
  • Stubbing the toe
  • Falls
  • Severe twists
  • Severe bending of a bone

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of a toe fracture are:

  • Playing contact sports
  • Health problems that may cause falls, such as nerve or muscle problems
  • Not wearing shoes

Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Noises when moving the toe, such as grinding and cracking
  • Problems moving the toe
  • Problems walking

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked how the injury happened. An exam will be done that focuses on your foot.

Images may be taken of your foot. This can be done with x-ray. Images are not always needed.

Treatment

It can take four to eight weeks for the toe to heal. The goals of treatment are to manage pain and support the bone as it heals. Options may be:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • Tape, a cast, or a shoe with a stiff bottom may be needed to keep bones in place as they heal
  • Crutches to take weight off of the toe

Putting Bones Back In Place

Some fractures cause pieces of bone to come apart. These pieces will need to be put back into place. This may be done:

  • Without surgery—anesthesia will be used to ease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins or screws may be used to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place

Prevention

Most fractures are due to accidents. They cannot be prevented.

RESOURCES:

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
http://www.sportsmed.org

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://www.orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

REFERENCES:

Abu-Laban RB, Ho K. Ankle and foot. In: Rosen's Emergency Medicine. 7th ed. Maryland Heights, MO: Mosby; 2009.

Toe and forefoot fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00165. Updated June 2016. Accessed September 30, 2019.

Toe phalanx fracture - emergency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/management/toe-phalanx-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed September 30, 2019.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM  Last Updated: 9/30/2019