Stubbed Toe: Treatment Options, Consequences and​ Prevention


stubbed toe treatment

What Does 'Stubbed Toe' Mean?

Hitting your foot against something hard could injure your toenails. Depending on the severity of the impact, there could be bleeding or the nail could even come loose and fall off.

This injury is called stubbed toe, and it can be a pretty painful experience.

This article will provide you with some safe and easy stubbed toe treatments that you can do at home.

What Causes Stubbed Toes?

Our toes contain very sensitive nerves that send instant signals to the central nervous system when stimulated. That is why the pain associated with a stubbed toe is usually exaggerated. If you've ever had a stubbed toe or are especially clumsy, read on to learn how to treat a stubbed toe.

People usually stub their toes when they're in a hurry. You might accidentally hit your foot against a piece of furniture at home or a stone while you're walking outside.

Walking around with bare feet or wearing peep-toe shoes increases your chances of stubbing your toe.

stubbed toe bruised

Stubbed Toe Symptoms

The severity of a stubbed toe depends on the force of impact when the foot hits the object. It is important to determine how serious the injury is, so you can treat it accordingly. A person with a stubbed toe will most likely notice symptoms such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Intense pain
  • The nail coming off
  • Slight swelling
  • Bruising, which may cause discoloration of the skin and nail on the affected toe

Feeling severe pain while walking or wearing socks and shoes may indicate a toe sprain or an underlying bone fracture. If this is the case, you should seek professional treatment right away.

Stubbing your toe causes intense pain the moment you hit your foot. Usually, the pain will subside gradually. However, in cases where the impact was very strong, the symptoms are often more severe, and may include:

  • Constant pain
  • Continuous bleeding
  • Moderate swelling
  • Tearing of soft tissue
  • Dislocation of the toe bone
  • Extensive bruising, with the skin around the toe turning red, blue, or purple

Stubbed Toe Diagnosis

Most cases of stubbed toe will not require a trip to the doctor’s office, but if the pain is severe you should seek the advice of a medical professional to make sure the bone is not fractured, broken, or displaced.

A fractured or broken toe bone must be treated immediately by a doctor, but how do you know if you have a bone fracture?

Having an X-ray is the only definitive way of finding out if your toe is fractured or broken. However, if your toe is crooked or pointing in the wrong direction, this is a strong indication of a broken bone, as is being unable to move or put any weight on the injured toe. If this is the case, you should seek medical attention immediately so the bone can be properly set.

A doctor should be able to diagnose a stubbed toe with a simple visual inspection. He or she may ask you to perform some gentle movements to determine the severity of the injury problem.

If the doctor suspects a bone fracture, he or she might require you to undergo radiography. You may also be given a blood test to check for any possible see if there is any infection.

A lifted and bleeding toenail also needs to be checked by a doctor, as it could indicate cut skin under the nail, which could lead to infection. If blood accumulates under the nail, it may need to be surgically drained.

The Consequences of Neglecting a Stubbed Toe

If you stubbed your toe and the pain does not go away after 24 hours, seek medical treatment immediately.

Ignoring a stubbed toe could lead to secondary problems, such as:

  • Infection
  • Ostheoarthritis

Stubbing a toe with a benign ingrown toenail may lead to an infection that may require antibiotics and/or debridement to treat. Immunocompromised individuals, such as those with diabetes, can get a foot ulcer or bone infection from a stubbed toe.

Ostheoarthritis may develop months, or even years after the initial injury, and untreated fractures may lead to arthritis of the feet later in life.

Stubbed Toe Treatments

So you've got a stubbed toe. The question is, how do you treat a moderate toe injury at home?

To determine what kind of treatment you may need, you must first assess your injury. If the pain is severe, the toe is crooked, or you are unable to put weight on the affected toe, this may indicate damage to the bone, and you are strongly advised to seek professional help.

If the pain is manageable but your skin or toenail is cut or torn, you will need to take care of the wound to prevent it from becoming infected.

Aside from treatment, you will need to take good care of the affected area and let it rest for a while. In order to effectively cope with a stubbed toe, do follow these instructions:

1. Apply an Antibiotic Cream

If the skin is torn, or if you have an ingrown toenail, the chances of getting an infection are very high if you do not take proper care of the wound. But do not panic!

Keep the affected area clean by washing it thoroughly with soap and warm water, then gently pat dry with a soft, clean cloth. Once the area is completely dry, apply a prescribed antibiotic ointment. Repeat this process 3-4 times a day.

2. Ice the Area

A stubbed toe is almost always followed by swelling, and the best way to treat this is by using a cold compress. Reducing the inflammation around an injury can also help to lessen pain and expedite healing.

Wrap some ice cubes in a towel and hold it to the affected area for at least 20 minutes. Repeat this 3-4 times a day. Remember, do not use ice directly on your skin, as this may be too cold and can cause further damage to the skin.

3. Elevate Your Foot

Elevating your foot will also reduce the amount of swelling around the injured toe. Get comfortable on a bed or chair, and lift your foot to a higher level by propping it up on some pillows or a stool.

Once the swollen toe is elevated a few inches above the rest of the body, the lymphatic fluid that causes the swelling will begin to drain away from the affected area, reducing the inflammation.

4. Take it Easy

Resting the affected toe as much as possible is the best way to promote healing, so you can be back on your feet as soon as possible.

Avoiding activity that may put a lot of strain on the injury, such as walking for long distances or running, and avoiding wearing tight, restrictive shoes, will allow the toe to heal at a faster rate.

What if Your Stubbed Toe Still Hurts Months Later?​​​​

It is not normal for a stubbed toe to still hurt months later.

If you are still experiencing pain several weeks or months after you stub your toe, this could indicate a fracture, break, dislocation, or infection. If this is the case, you should seek medical attention immediately, so that you can be prescribed the appropriate treatment.

Failing to properly treat a fractured or broken bone could lead to ostearthritis, a painful and irreversible condition that can cause chronic pain in the joints of the toe.

If your stubbed toe is still causing you pain more than one week after the initial injury, make an appointment with your doctor so they can determine the cause of the pain, and properly treat the wound.

How to Avoid a Stubbed Toe

The following measures can be taken to avoid a stubbed toe or at least reduce the severity of the injury:

  • Do not walk barefoot
  • Be mindful of objects around you when moving in a hurry
  • Wear sturdy, closed shoes that protect the toes

If you have a stubbed toe and want to reduce the severity of the injury:

  • Do not wear tight-fitting shoes with a stubbed toe, and this puts too much pressure on the wound
  • Keep the affected area covered and always apply a bandage on the stubbed area

Hopefully after reading this article you have a better understanding of what a stubbed toe is, as well as its causes, diagnosis, and treatments. A stubbed toe usually results from negligence, and can easily be avoided with some precaution.

Although wearing protective footwear is enough to avoid this painful condition, there will be times when this solution is not practical, especially when at home.

So just be mindful of your movements and try to be extra careful when in crowded spaces. It is reported that people stub their toes the most in the garage, so keep things in their proper place and out of the way when not in use.

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