During the physical exam, your doctor will check for tender areas in your toes. Your doctor will also check the skin around your injury to make sure it's intact and that the toe is still receiving adequate blood flow and nerve signals.
If a broken toe seems likely, your doctor will probably order X-rays of your foot taken from a variety of angles.
You can usually manage pain from a broken toe with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Your doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers if the pain from your fracture is more severe.
If the broken fragments of your bone don't fit snugly together, your doctor may need to manipulate the pieces back into their proper positions (reduction). Doctors can usually do this without cutting open your skin. Ice or an injected anesthetic is used to numb your toe.
To heal, a broken bone must be immobilized so that its ends can knit back together. Examples include:
- Buddy taping. If you have a simple fracture in any of your smaller toes, your doctor may tape the injured toe to its neighboring toe. The uninjured toe acts like a splint. Always put some gauze or felt in between toes before taping them together to prevent skin irritation.
- Wearing a stiff-bottomed shoe. Your doctor might prescribe a post-surgical shoe that has a stiff bottom and a soft top that closes with strips of fabric fastener. This can prevent your toe from flexing and provide more room to accommodate the swelling.
- Casting. If the fragments of your broken toe won't stay snugly together, you may need a walking cast.
In some cases, a surgeon may need to use pins, plates or screws to maintain proper position of your bones during healing.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Elevation and ice can help reduce swelling and pain. Prop your foot up when possible so that your injury is higher than your heart. If you use ice, wrap it in a towel so that it doesn't make direct contact with your skin, and only apply it for about 15 minutes at a time, taking a break of at least 20 minutes between icing sessions.
Preparing for your appointment
While you may initially consult your family physician, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in orthopedic surgery.
What you can do
You may want to write a list that includes:
- Detailed descriptions of your symptoms
- A short explanation of how the injury occurred
- Information about other medical problems you've had
- All the medications and dietary supplements you take
- Questions you want to ask the doctor
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor may ask some of the following questions:
- How did this injury occur?
- Were you barefoot at the time?
- Exactly where does it hurt?
- Is more than one toe involved?
- Do any particular foot motions make your injury feel better or worse?