A dislocated toe is a misalignment of the toe bones. A dislocation also causes injury to the blood vessels, nerves, and ligaments that normally keep the bones in place.
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A dislocated toe is usually caused by trauma such as:
- A jamming force
- Toe being forcefully twisted or bent
- Activity that puts too much stress on the bones
Factors that may increase your chance of a dislocated toe:
- Contact sports
- Previous dislocation or sprain which may weaken structures that support the toe joint
- Loose ligaments or joint deformities, which may be caused by birth defects or medical conditions
A dislocated toe may cause:
- Severe pain
- Deformity or displacement of the toe
- Swelling and bruising
- Numbness or tingling
- Difficulty moving the toe
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and how the injury occurred. A physical exam will be done. The toe joint and foot will be closely examined. The doctor will most likely be able to diagnose a dislocation based on the exam.
X-rays may be done to make sure the bones are back in their correct place or to look for other damage, such as a fracture.
Emergency care may be needed to safely guide the bone back into place. The doctor can usually guide the bones back in to place by hand. Anesthesia may be used to reduce pain and anxiety. Severe injuries may require surgery to reposition the bones or repair support tissue.
After the toe bones are put back into place, recovery will include:
- Support such as taping toe to nearby healthy toe or splint, cast, walking boot, or crutches for more severe injuries
- Self-care, such as using ice packs and keeping the foot elevated
- Exercises to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion
- Slow return to normal activity as tolerated
Dislocated toes are often the result of an accident which are difficult to avoid. To help reduce your chance of a dislocated toe, wear proper shoes or protection during sports or other activities that may cause injury.
Foot Health Facts—American College Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Dislocated toe. Sports Injury Clinic website. Available at: http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/foot-heel-pain/dislocated-toe-1. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Dislocation. University of Minnesota medical Center website. Available at: https://www.mhealth.org/care/conditions/dislocation. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Overview of musculoskeletal injuries. The Merck Manual Professional Edition website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries_poisoning/fractures_dislocations_and_sprains/overview_of_musculoskeletal_injuries.html. Updated August 2017. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 10/3/2016