This article was medically reviewed by Alan Evangelist, MD. Dr. Evangelista is a foot and ankle surgeon at Mountaineer Orthopedic Specialists in Morgantown, West Virginia. He graduated from Temple University School of Medicine in 2002 and completed his internship at Sarasota Orthopedic Associates in 2006.
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A broken toe is a common injury that can be caused by something falling on your foot, being kicked, or simply stubbing your toe. You can injure your toe without breaking it, so sometimes it’s hard to tell how serious the injury is. Fortunately, there are several ways you can tell if you have a broken toe.
This article was medically reviewed by Alan Evangelist, MD. Dr. Evangelista is a foot and ankle surgeon at Mountaineer Orthopedic Specialists in Morgantown, West Virginia. He graduated from Temple University School of Medicine in 2002 and completed his internship at Sarasota Orthopedic Associates in 2006. This article has been viewed 2,316,581 times.
The content of this article is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. You should always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing or stopping any type of medical treatment.
If your toe hurts when you press on it and your pain is persistent, you may have a broken toe. Compare your potentially broken toe to see if the healthy toes are swollen, deformed, and/or have an irregular red, yellow, blue, or black color. If pain, swelling, and discoloration persist for more than a few days, see your doctor for an X-ray of the break and treatment. For advice from our medical reviewers on how to care for a broken leg, scroll down! What does a broken leg look like, how long does it take to heal, and how is it treated?
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Foot injuries are common and sometimes broken bones. Being able to recognize the symptoms of a broken leg can help determine how serious it is and when to contact a doctor.
This article discusses the causes and symptoms of a broken leg and when to seek medical attention. It also discusses first aid, diagnosis, treatment, recovery and prevention tips.
Bones can break in many ways. They can vary from small cracks and chips to complete fractures that separate the bone. Strong breaks can tear or puncture the skin and leave bruises. These are known as open fractures.
If there is no visible displacement of the bone or obvious bruising, a person cannot tell if the bone is broken. Also, some minor cracks or breaks do not cause much pain.
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A deformity of the big toe or area of the foot, such as an abnormal bulge, strongly suggests a fracture.
A person should seek immediate medical attention if they suspect they have broken a bone in their foot or big toe. They should not attempt to drive. Broken fingers are less serious and one should try home treatment first.
A person should also see a doctor for any injury that stops walking or causes persistent leg pain or swelling.
A foot injury can result in a sprain rather than a fracture. A sprain occurs when tissue between bones known as ligaments is torn or stretched.
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In general, a broken leg will cause more severe and persistent pain. In addition, swelling and bruising of the foot is usually more severe if it is caused by a fracture rather than a sprain.
However, sprains can still cause anxiety and impair a person’s mobility. Doctors will order imaging tests to accurately diagnose whether a person’s injury is a fracture or a sprain.
A broken leg or toe can take 4-6 weeks to heal completely. However, in some cases, the healing time can be up to 10-12 weeks.
Those who are recovering should follow the RICE method and any specific instructions from their doctor. The person may also need follow-up X-rays or other scans to ensure proper healing and alignment.
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Returning to physical activity too early may risk poor healing, re-injury or a complete fracture. A person should contact a doctor if pain or swelling returns.
In most cases, the fracture will heal with rest and limited weight bearing. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and swelling.
If the bone is out of place, the doctor may have to physically manipulate it into proper alignment. The medical term is fracture reduction. Doctors usually administer local anesthesia before starting the reduction procedure. They also treat any open wounds.
If the bone is deformed or unstable due to injury, surgeons may insert metal pins, plates, or screws into the leg, which hold the bone in place until it heals. The term is internal determination.
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A doctor may apply a cast or give the person a protective boot while the foot heals. These devices protect the injured leg and help support its weight. The person may also need crutches to help them walk.
People should always seek medical attention if they suspect they have broken a bone in their foot or big toe.
However, they may benefit from following the RICE principle immediately after an injury, while seeking help or while waiting. Abbreviations are:
After a minor toe fracture, a person can tape the broken toe to support the adjacent, uninjured foot. Some people call it ‘buddy taping’. It involves placing a piece of cotton wool or cotton between two fingers and then securing it with surgical tape.
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A person can get immediate pain relief by taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If walking on a broken leg or toe is necessary, the person should wear wide and sturdy shoes that do not put pressure on the injured area.
A person can use the RICE principle to treat foot or ankle strains or sprains.
A broken leg can be the result of a simple trip, trip or kick. An awkward sprain of the foot or ankle from a fall or impact with a heavy object can also break a bone.
Stress fractures are a particular risk for athletes or anyone who participates in high-impact sports such as football, basketball, running or dancing.
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These are small, sometimes microscopic cracks that can grow larger over time. They are caused by repetitive activities or sudden increases in exercise intensity.
To diagnose a broken leg, the doctor will ask questions about the injury and feel and manipulate the affected leg. They may order an X-ray to confirm a possible break or for further evaluation.
Suspected stress fractures may require an MRI or ultrasound because these small fractures can be difficult to detect on an X-ray.
To reduce the risk of foot injuries, people should keep floors free of clutter at home and at work. Persons working on construction sites or other hazardous environments should wear occupational safety shoes.
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When playing sports or exercising, the following tips can help prevent stress fractures and other foot injuries:
The symptoms of a broken leg are often similar to those of a strain or sprain. However, swelling, pain, and visual impairment are usually greater after a bone fracture.
Trauma or overuse can break a bone in a person’s foot. Fractures can vary from small cracks or chips to open fractures where part of the bone breaks through the skin.
A person can treat a small foot fracture at home using buddy taping and the RICE principle.
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If a person does not seek medical treatment, the bones can heal through natural alignment. This can lead to permanent bone deformities and mobility problems. If a person has an open fracture and does not receive treatment, they may also be at risk of wound infection.
A person can break a leg bone without leaving a visible injury. Bruises are caused by pooling of blood under the skin. Overuse or injury causes bone to break without disrupting blood vessels.
Medical News Today has strict guidelines for sourcing and only draws from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using third-party links. We link to primary sources—including studies, scientific references, and statistics—in every article, and we list them in the sources section at the bottom of our articles. Learn more about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial policy. About 38.4 percent of broken bones are finger fractures. Maybe you broke your finger and didn’t know it. This is because you can still move around the broken finger.
If your finger
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