Broken little toe, or a broken toe in general, is a fairly common injury caused by hitting the toe on something, dropping a heavy object on it or if someone stomps on it during an intense game of basketball (I`ve included this example because that is exactly what happened to me some time ago).

The recovery will usually last anywhere from four to six weeks, so it would be a good idea to arm yourself with patience. In the following paragraphs we will discuss some of the most common symptoms of a broken toe and treatment procedure you can apply yourself, at home, so don’t go anywhere just yet.

Toe Anatomy

Our toes consist of bones called phalanges. Each toe consists of three phalanges, with the exception of the big toe, which consists of “only” two. The bones in fingers also bear the same name.

The bones in the fingers and toes were first called “phalanges” by the Greek philosopher-scientist Aristotle because they are arranged in ranks, suggesting the military formation called Phalanx. This military formation was composed of heavily armed troops, in close ranks. Source MedTerms 

There are 5 different types of bones in the human body:

  • Short
  • Long
  • Flat
  • Irregular and
  • Sesmoid bones

and phalanges fall under the “Long bones” category. Long bones are built of body (middle section of the bone) and growth plates on either end which form joints with other bones in our body. Some of the “most well-known” long bones in our body are humerus (upper arm bone) and femur (thigh bone).

Bones of the foot

After looking at the image above, you might find it odd that phalanges are actually classified as long bones, especially since they are not even that “long.” But their main characteristic is having a body and growth plates at either end.

Symptoms And Signs Of A Broken Little Toe And How Do You Know If You`ve Broken It

Before we go any further, I feel the need to point out that a broken toe can be treated at home, but you should attempt to treat it only if you`ve had an injury and feel pain as a result of it. On the other hand, if you start experiencing swelling, pain and redness and you know for a fact you did not injure your toe, you should speak to your doctor, especially if you are suffering from diabetes.

That being said, the most common symptoms of a broken little toe are:

  • Pain – bone break, a fracture, is a condition where the bone cracks (I`m sure most of you know this), and since there are a lot of nerve endings and soft tissue surrounding the bone, you will experience a certain amount of pain, depending on the severity of the injury
  • Swelling – swelling is our body`s natural reaction to injury, so there is nothing to worry about. It is caused by the fluid build-up in the injured region, which protects it from making the injury worse
  • Temperature and redness – if you`ve broken your little toe, there is a chance you will develop a fever, but it is just body`s way of dealing with it. Redness may also appear in the injured area
  • Deformation – in more severe injuries, you might notice a slight deformation in your little toe – it may stick out at a certain angle
  • Bruising – this is probably the most common fracture symptom. The main cause of bruising is the blood`s inability to clot and, as a result, your toe can change color – turn dark red, blue or even black
  • Fever

If you are not a big fan of reading and prefer a “more visual approach,” this short tutorial will help you determine whether or not your toe is actually broken:

Home Treatment

As we already stated, recovery process will vary, but it shouldn’t take longer than 9 weeks. In case your pain does not go away completely in 9 weeks you should go visit your doctor; also, if you notice your pain getting more intense as the time goes by (instead of going away), go talk to your GP.

In other cases, the pain will go away on its own, but if you want to speed up the process or make the pain more bearable, you can apply the so called RICE method:

    • Rest – of course, you are not going to run a marathon with a broken little toe, that`s just common sense, but you should also try to avoid putting pressure on it. So, if possible, avoid standing or walking for longer periods of time. And if you absolutely have to, use cane and special foot wear.
    • Ice – we already said that putting ice on the fractured area will help with the swelling, redness and temperature, but it can also reduce the intensity of the pain. Avoid applying ice directly to the skin, rather grab a towel, wrap it around an ice pack and then apply. Apply it no more than 20 minutes at a time, couple times a day
    • Compression – since bandaging little toe can be tricky, since it is so small, you can actually tape your little toe to its neighbor. Make sure you place a piece of wool or a gaze between the two toes (to ensure proper support) and tape them together. This way you will get a sort of a “natural splint”
  • Elevation – keeping your toe elevated, by using cushions for example, will help reduce the swelling and pain, so you should definitely use it whenever possible
  • Wearing appropriate shoes – wearing regular shoes might hurt or even be unbearable, which is why you need to wear only that footwear which allows enough room for swelling

You can also use over-the-counter medication, to help you deal with the pain. Note that some medication can be contraindicated if you are suffering from heart disease, high BP or kidney disease, which is why you should never take them without consulting with your health care provider.