Toe Injury

Is this your symptom?

  • Injury to the toe
  • Injury to a bone, muscle, joint, or ligament
  • Excluded: muscle pain caused by too much exercise or work (overuse). Covered in Toe Pain care guide.

Types of Toe Injuries

  • Fractures. Fractures are broken bones. Toe fractures can occur if the toes are stubbed against a hard object, such as a bed leg or rock, or if a heavy object is dropped onto them. The little toe can break by catching it on something when walking in bare feet. Fractures of the big toe can be very painful. They make it hard to walk since the big toe bears a lot of weight when walking.
  • Dislocations. This happens when a bone is pulled out of its a joint socket. Dislocation of the small toe joints can occur with toe injuries.
  • Sprains. Sprains are stretches and tears of ligaments. These often occur in sports injuries. Ligaments in the foot can pull away from the bone they are attached to.
  • Strains are stretches and tears of muscles.
  • Bruising can occur from a direct blow.
  • Skin Injury examples are a cut, scratch, scrape or bruise.
  • Nail injuries. These can occur from a direct blow which causes a bruise under the nail or from a nail being partly or fully torn from its nail bed. Pain may be severe.

Pain Scale

  • Mild: you feel some pain. But, the pain does not keep you from your normal activities. Work, chores and sleep are not changed.
  • Moderate: the pain keeps you from doing some normal activities. It may wake you up from sleep.
  • Severe: the pain is very bad. It keeps you from doing all normal activities.

When to Call for Toe Injury

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Blood under the nail is causing more than mild pain
  • Nail is torn or torn off
  • Base of nail has popped out from under the skin fold
  • There is a loss of feeling in any part of the toes
  • Toe or toes are pale (could be from lack of blood flow)
  • Skin is cut and No past tetanus shots
  • Toe looks crooked or deformed (like a dislocated joint or bad fracture)
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Increasing redness, pain or swelling around a wound
  • Severe pain
  • Weak immune system. Examples are: sickle cell disease, HIV, cancer, organ transplant, taking oral steroids, diabetes, kidney problems.
  • Very large bruise or swelling
  • Dirty cut or hard to clean and no tetanus shot for more than 5 years
  • Clean cut and no tetanus shot for more than 10 years
  • Sudden increase in pain, swelling or redness a few days after the injury
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • Injury limits work or sports
  • Pain lasts more than 2 weeks
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Bruised toes from direct blow
  • Minor toe injury

Care Advice for Minor Toe Injuries

  1. What You Should Know About Minor Toe Injuries:
    • During activities and sports, toes can get injured. They get stepped on, stubbed, caught on something or objects dropped on them.
    • You can also sprain the ligaments in your feet and toes walking on uneven ground. You are more likely to injure your toes if they are not protected, such as wearing open-toed shoes or flip flops.
    • Muscles and ligaments get stretched.
    • Nails can get partly or fully torn from the nail bed. The nail bed can also get bruised, causing a black painful nail.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, take an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil). Ibuprofen works well for this type of pain.
    • Use as needed, but do not take more than the maximum recommended dosage as stated on the package.
    • If you are not sure what to take, ask a pharmacist.
  3. Small Cut or Scrape Treatment:
    • Use direct pressure to stop any bleeding. Do this for 10 minutes or until bleeding stops.
    • Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes. Try to rinse the cut under running water, if possible.
    • Gently scrub out any dirt with a washcloth.
    • Use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed. Then, cover it with a bandage. Change daily.
    • Caution: never tie anything tight around your toe. It could cut off the blood flow.
  4. Cold Pack for Pain:
    • For pain or swelling, use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
    • Put it on the toes for 20 minutes.
    • Repeat 4 times on the first day, then as needed.
    • Reason: helps the pain and helps stop any bleeding.
    • Caution: avoid frostbite by wrapping the ice pack. Do not put ice directly onto the skin.
  5. Remove Tight Jewelry and Clothing
    • Remove any jewelry from the toes (toe rings), shoes, or other objects that could become too tight if the toe(s) swell.
  6. Use Heat After 48 Hours:
    • If pain lasts more than 2 days, put heat on the toes.
    • Use a heat pack, heating pad or warm wet washcloth.
    • Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed.
    • Reason: increase blood flow and improve healing.
    • Caution: avoid burns by wrapping the heat pack. Do not put it directly onto the skin.
  7. Rest the Foot:
    • Rest the injured toes as much as possible for 48 hours. Keep the other toes moving gently if you can.
    • Keep the leg raised on a pillow above the level of your heart to help limit pain and swelling.
  8. What to Expect:
    • Pain and swelling most often peak on day 2 or 3.
    • Swelling should be gone by 7 days.
    • Pain may take 2 weeks to fully go away.
    • It may be hard to wear your usual footwear due to pain or swelling. Avoid footwear that is too tight or does not support the foot well. Do not wear shoes that cause your feet to sweat if you have a wound on your toes.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain is not better after 3 days
    • Sudden increase in pain, redness or swelling a few days after the injury
    • Pain lasts more than 2 weeks
    • You think you need to be seen
    • Your symptoms get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.


Last Reviewed: 10/11/2023 1:01:10 AM
Last Updated: 4/13/2023 1:00:47 AM

Copyright 2023 Schmitt Decision Logic LLC.

<strong>First Aid - Bleeding Toe</strong> <ul><li>Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a sterile gauze dressing or a clean cloth.</li></ul>
First Aid - Bleeding Toe
  • Apply direct pressure to the entire wound with a sterile gauze dressing or a clean cloth.
<strong>First Aid - Amputated Finger or Toe - Transport</strong> <ul><li><strong>Step 1</strong>: Briefly rinse amputated part with water (to remove any dirt)</li><li><strong>Step 2</strong>: Place amputated part in plastic bag (to protect and keep clean)</li><li><strong>Step 3</strong>: Place plastic bag containing the part in a container of ice (to keep cool and preserve tissue).</li></ul><p><em>Note</em>: Take patient and amputated part to emergency department immediately.</p>
First Aid - Amputated Finger or Toe - Transport
  • Step 1: Briefly rinse amputated part with water (to remove any dirt)
  • Step 2: Place amputated part in plastic bag (to protect and keep clean)
  • Step 3: Place plastic bag containing the part in a container of ice (to keep cool and preserve tissue).

Note: Take patient and amputated part to emergency department immediately.

<strong>First Aid - Removing a Splinter</strong> <p>You can remove splinters, larger slivers, and thorns with a <strong>needle</strong> and <strong>tweezers</strong>. Check the tweezers beforehand to be certain the ends (pickups) meet exactly. (If they do not, bend them.) Sterilize the tools with rubbing alcohol or a flame. </p><p><strong>Clean the skin</strong> surrounding the sliver briefly with rubbing alcohol before trying to remove it. Be careful not to push the splinter in deeper. If you don't have rubbing alcohol, use soap and water, but don't soak the area if FB is wood (Reason: can cause swelling of the splinter). </p><p><strong>Remove the splinter:</strong></p><ul><li><strong>Step 1: </strong>Use the needle to completely expose the large end of the sliver. Use good lighting. A magnifying glass may help. </li><li><strong>Step 2:</strong> Then grasp the end firmly with the tweezers and pull it out at the same angle that it went in. Getting a good grip the first time is especially important with slivers that go in perpendicular to the skin or those trapped under the fingernail. </li></ul>
First Aid - Removing a Splinter

You can remove splinters, larger slivers, and thorns with a needle and tweezers. Check the tweezers beforehand to be certain the ends (pickups) meet exactly. (If they do not, bend them.) Sterilize the tools with rubbing alcohol or a flame.

Clean the skin surrounding the sliver briefly with rubbing alcohol before trying to remove it. Be careful not to push the splinter in deeper. If you don't have rubbing alcohol, use soap and water, but don't soak the area if FB is wood (Reason: can cause swelling of the splinter).

Remove the splinter:

  • Step 1: Use the needle to completely expose the large end of the sliver. Use good lighting. A magnifying glass may help.
  • Step 2: Then grasp the end firmly with the tweezers and pull it out at the same angle that it went in. Getting a good grip the first time is especially important with slivers that go in perpendicular to the skin or those trapped under the fingernail.

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