Broken Toe Frequently Asked Questions

A few hours ago I came back from the fracture clinic, to get an update on my broken toe. Everything seems to be healed, but I can’t say my bone looks straight or fully regrown. Apparently, while the cyst I had doesn’t seem to have come back, it’ll take a bit longer for the bone’s outer shell to regrow… I suppose I misunderstood that the last time I went. So I’ll start with Ju-Jutsu again some time soon, but will keep the toe taped to it’s neighbour for support for a while longer — no use in risking another injury.

But this post isn’t so much about my toe, as it’s an answer to many, many questions I’ve implicitly received — implicitly, because my two previous posts on my toe received a huge number of hits from google queries, some of which were very specific questions. I’ll try to answer a few of those.

But first, a disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Please do not misunderstand the following as medical advice, it is not.

On to the questions:

  1. How does one diagnose a broken toe?

    The short answer is: I googled it, and found a helpful video. In general, a broken (not cracked) toe will move in directions it shouldn’t move. When moving it, you may feel a grinding sensation. You will not be able to put weight on the toe: it’ll give, and the pain is likely to be too strong.

  2. Can I wiggle a broken toe?

    Somewhat. Most resources will tell you you can’t, and that’s essentially correct. Most injuries result in swellings, which impair movement only a little. If it weren’t for the pain, you should be able to force your limb into just about all positions you’re used to. With a broken bone on the other hand, that’s not the case. In all likelihood you’ll be able to make your limb move, but it’ll be hardly more than a twitch. Now it depends on your definition of “wiggling” — if it’s almost normal movement, chances are your bone isn’t broken. If you can barely make the toe twitch, it may very well be.

  3. What will they do at the fracture clinic?

    For small bones such as the ones in a toe, there isn’t a huge amount they can do. You’ll likely get an x-ray taken, from straight above the foot, and from holding the foot at a slight angle. They’ll tape the toe to one of the neighbouring toes to keep it in place, and that’s just about the best cast you can get. It’s quite likely that you’ll be issued an aircast, or “moon boot”, which is essentially a two-part inflexible but padded boot. Wearing one allows your foot to roll almost naturally, while not bending the toes much. If your broken bone is dislocated, you might get it relocated.

  4. When should I go to hospital?

    If you suspect your toe is broken, you should go immediately. Going 1-3 days after the accident won’t hurt, but I wouldn’t draw things out longer. Even if there isn’t much to be done for the toe, your x-rays will reveal if there are complications, such as bone fragments sticking out all over the place or some such. So it’s a good idea to go.

  5. How long will the pain last/will it take to mend?

    The severity of the break determines the time a bone takes to heal. I was initially told it’d be mostly healed after 3-4 weeks; the doctor then added another 4 weeks to the schedule — but I had a bone cyst, which meant the walls of my bone were very thin. Roughly 1 week after the accident I could set weight on the side of my foot opposite the broken toe, after 2 weeks I could put weight very gently on both sides, allowing me to walk short distances without crutches. After 3 weeks I could put weight on the whole foot, but couldn’t roll off the injured side of the foot. I could walk without crutches, but often preferred to walk with, especially in crowds (crutches are more noticeable than moon boots), and if I had to travel (relatively) far. Now, about 8 weeks after the accident, I feel an almost unnoticeable pain in the joint when I walk more than a few yards — but I dislocated the toe as well, so that may not be to do with the break.

  • der-eremit

    nice article — just a small addition to point one. many people begin to freeze in case of a broken bone. not sure if this is always like that and if you would recognize it in case of a broken toe, but in my case (four broken fingers and thumb cracked) it was and i heard the same by several other people. so it might be an indication for a broken bone.

    der-eremits last blog post… Kill Homer

    • unwesen

      Good point! I don’t think that happened to me, though I think I’ve read a slightly raised temperature (which would account for the freezing feeling) is common.

      Well, as I said before, this is just to answer the searches that hit my previous posts — I don’t think I can be complete even if I tried :)

  • Shrimpy

    i’ve done a post like this, but it was on chickens. people kept ending up at my site because i reviewed a chicken book, so i did a chicken fact page. luckily, no broken bones here :)

    Shrimpys last blog post… To read or not to read…

    • unwesen

      Give ‘em what they want :)

  • Anonymous

    I dislocated my middle toe, and not having insurance, but still being in shock I popped it back into place.   Waited 7 days to see a doctor at the free clinic because I broke it over memorial day weekend, and then waited till the following Friday to get signed up at the free clinic.  I was hesitant because of just the idea of it made me see my lopsided toe.   

    I went online the day I broke it and researched it, buddy taped it, began icing it 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off for 4 days and elevated it. 

    The doctor was really concerned because when I actually went because the bottom of the broken toe had turned blue and I had been experiencing numbness (thus the thing that convinced me to get it checked)

    Was sent to the Hospital E.R.  got an x-ray and confirmed it was broken, buddy taped and told to do what I already had done.  Billed for $999.00 but discounted to $388.00  (I haven’t worked in 3 years = No Cash)

    Was given a shoe to wear.

    I’m now in week 4 since the toe broke, and up until two days ago, it was pretty stiff and some numbness.  But for the last three days I’ve had continuous toe spasms and twitching in all my toes on that foot.  Real annoying, but generally not painful.

    I’ve started to lightly massage the non-affected areas of my foot but where the muscles near the back of the foot are twitching, and began icing it again because the extended twitching made my foot sore.

    It looks funny and I added some music to it to make it more interesting, but this is a 1 min video showing some of the less active twitching – but it is still very intense.

    Came here looking for information or others with a similar recovery experience.   Not a whole lot of info. about twitcing/spasms while recovering so I thought I would post this.

    • unwesen

      Awesome, thanks!

      Well, this isn’t a medical website – but I’m getting lots of search hits. So I think any information you can add will be useful to someone out there :)