Did You Break Your Toe?

Is It Just a Sprain?

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With 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles, your foot has many stress points for fracture. Beneath you, they support your weight and propel movement. Twist it, smack it into a hard object, or drop some­thing heavy on it and you can feel incapacitated.

Mild sprains, usually affecting the ankle, may begin to feel better in a few days to a week and heal by six weeks. A broken foot can heal in four to six weeks. Healing is delayed among patients with weakened bones from osteoporosis. When damage affects nerves, the uncomfortable sensation can last much longer.

Toe Bruise
People often associate level of pain with the color of a bruise. It may take 24 hours to develop black and blue discoloration. Color changes as healing progresses. A hematoma is bleeding beneath the skin due to trauma of any kind.

Broken Foot vs Sprain

With either a sprain or fracture you can lose the ability to bear weight on your foot. It is usually not possible to tell if a foot is broken or sprained without an X-ray unless it heals quickly. Rest, ice, and elevation are standard home care.

When to See a Doctor

  • The pain is severe, even after resting and icing the affected area.
  • It is hard to walk or you can’t walk at all without experiencing significant pain.
  • You suspect an open fracture of the toe.
  • There is bleeding.
  • Toe is cold, numb, blue, gray, or there is a tingling sensation.
  • Toe appears deformed or is pointing in the wrong direction.
  • After 5–7 days, your foot or ankle has not improved.

Doctors don’t heal broken bones; your body does. The primary role of physicians is to minimize pain and provide proper alignment or support during natural mending. Podiatrists or orthopedic surgeons can treat foot injuries. Either of these doctors may buddy tape a broken toe. This is when two toes are taped together with cotton between them. It should remain dry. So the dressing needs to change after shower­ing. Crutches can eliminate pressure on the healing foot.

Covid Toes

The 2-day bruising after breaking a foot might resemble an anomaly nicknamed “Covid Toes” or pseudo-frostbite. The internet is burgeoning with patient photos of reddish or purplish swelling on joints of toes. This can be either an early symptom of COVID-19 or a sign that the virus is subsiding. There may be an associated itch, feeling of tightness, or the patient may be otherwise asymptomatic. The symptoms usually resolve on their own.

ClinicalPosters sells a variety of posters and models detailing the foot anatomy and injuries. Get yours by shopping within the podiatry section.

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Kevin Williams is a health advocate, local editor, and writer of hundreds of articles for multiple web­sites, including: A Bit More Healthy, KevinMD (WebMD), and Sue’s Nutrition Buzz. He was a 15-year Neutrogena Research and Scientific Affairs graphics con­sul­tant.

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