If it ain't broke, how do i fix it?
September 5, 2010 10:13 PM   Subscribe

YANMP -- Is my baby toe broken? What else could be wrong with it -- and what can I do?

About a month ago, I smashed by baby toe into the banister and oh, it hurt like hell. But, I had to keep walking around on it, as I know there's not much you can do for broken toes. ( I had one when i was younger, it healed fine). But now, here we are a month later and it's still swollen and hurts when anything presses against the side in a certain way. There's kind of a weird bump and it hurts like the dickens when I press right on it -- sort of hard, mind you, it's not sensitive if you just touch it, but something is definitely wrong. I don't want to drag myself to a doctor if there's nothing that can be done about it except wait, but as I have to keep walking around on it if there is something I can do I'll be wanting to know.

Before you answer "it hurts when i do this" with "then stop doing it", my job requires me to wear high heels. My toe gets bumped from a specific action I have to do maybe four times a night, and it usually doesn't hurt when I wear the shoes or before I do the action, but it hurts after (a lot) only while pressed on (the shoes put pressure on it which can be uncomfortable, but I don't think that's doing any damage. just maybe preventing it from healing?) I could probably hold off or be really careful for a month or so but if it's not going to go away without treatment, I'd rather know now than wait.

So, mefi podiatrists, what could be wrong? it doesn't seem like a degenerative joint thing since the other is fine and it happened exactly when I smashed it. On the other hand, it doesn't feel broken, since i can walk around in tennis shoes just fine. Did i chip the bone? is it a bunion or some other condition with an equally old-timey, funny sounding name? Or should I just get myself to a doctor and get an x-ray?
posted by custard heart to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
Well, an x-ray would certainly answer your question, I think, but wouldn't really help with the problem. If you're in a position to get the x-ray, then sure, why not? Meanwhile, is it feasable to tape it to your next toe (piggy that stayed home)? I'm not positive, but that's probably what would happen at a doctor's anyway.
posted by Gilbert at 10:30 PM on September 5, 2010

My foot got a door accidentally slammed on it once. I am pretty certain the little toe was broken. It was swollen and a bit purplish for a while. I almost always wore sneakers then, and could walk fine in them, but that didn't mean the toe wasn't broken.

Broken bones take some time to set -- why people usually wear casts or have digits taped for at least 4-6 weeks afterward. The thing is, it's hard to do anything for that toe in general because it's small. I taped mine to the neighboring toe for a week or two. This is what will likely happen if you see a doctor. I cribbed this together on the internet since I was uninsured back then.

Can you find some high heels with a wider front just to make sure you're not squishing your toe into healing improperly?
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:32 PM on September 5, 2010

I broke that toe once when I was a kid, and yeah, pretty much the only treatment was taping it to the toe next to it, and wearing a slipper on that foot for like a month. So yeah, the heels may be interfering with the healing--I second trying to find cushier/wider heels if possible, and yeah, maybe check with a doctor just in case.
posted by leesh at 10:36 PM on September 5, 2010

I broke my big toe about 8 months ago. It's still sensitive. My doctor offered me a funky shoe, but like you said, there's not much you can do. An x-ray is probably best.
posted by NeonBlueDecember at 11:11 PM on September 5, 2010

My little toes used to stick out, I often get around without shoes, and I'm not particularly aware of doorways and tree stumps and things.. Net result is that I've broken each of my little toes about half a dozen times.

15-20 years ago my doctors would tell me to tape them to the next toe, more recently they've told me to wear shoes for a while but not to bother taping unless it's causing major discomfort.

That said, I do still tend to see a doctor each time, just because some breaks can have nasty side effects. Get it checked out.
posted by Ahab at 2:45 AM on September 6, 2010

I broke that toe in April. My doctor said that there are actually serious complications that could occur depending on where the toe gets broken, so she sent me for x-rays. Then I had to tape it for six weeks and I wore ugly comfy shoes every day. I can't imagine wearing heels with a broken toe. I tried it a month post-break for a wedding and only made it two hours before giving up and grabbing my flip flops.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:01 AM on September 6, 2010

I'm not a doctor, but I've broken more toes than I can count. Here's the routine I go through every time:

-Are you sure it's just the toe? Does it hurt down into your foot, or just in the toe? Did the bruising follow a clear and obvious line down the foot when it happened? Sometimes I've pulled that little toe in the just right direction that I actually break the fifth metatarsal in my foot. If so, you should go get it X-rayed; sometimes that break requires a cast and sometimes it doesn't. (Though if you've been walking around in heels the last month I doubt it's the metatarsal.)
-Buddy tape the toe to the one next to it. You can get the tape at pretty much any drug store. This is to help it heal straight, which, trust me, is very important. My poor middle toe veers off at a 45 degree angle now because I didn't do this once.
-Wear hard-sole shoes, like birkenstocks, that don't allow your foot to bend when you're walking. High heels are probably putting unnecessary pressure on your toe that will make it harder to heal and increase the odds it'll heal funny. Wear them for 2-3 weeks and tell your boss to suck it up and deal with it. A doctor's note may be helpful if you think your boss will be resistant about it.

Broken toes take a stupidly long time to heal. It took about six months last time for my foot to feel OK again. Luckily, this is one of the bones where you don't really need to get doctor confirmation in order to treat it if you don't want to -- just buddy tape and hard-sole shoes for awhile.
posted by lilac girl at 8:52 AM on September 6, 2010

I am going to suggest that you might have dislocated that toe and not broken it - IANAD.

About half of the toe injuries I've had weren't breaks, they were dislocations and usually required a reset by a doctor.

Like Ahab, I'm prone to foot injuries (I've broken my big toe falling up the stairs) so I don't bother going to a doctor anymore; that's why the two smallest toes on both my feet are permanently disfigured.

See a doc, get the Xray if you can afford it. Wearing a wood shoe and avoiding heels for a week or two wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to you.
posted by jaimystery at 10:32 AM on September 6, 2010

I've broken all but one of my toes and what you're describing doesn't mesh with what I remember of my baby toe breaks. I'd advise you to go get doctored.
posted by Shutter at 10:54 AM on September 6, 2010

C&P'd from a previous comment I made:

Not all breaks are equal. When I broke a toe, I couldn't get my doctor-on-call to authorize an after-hours non-life-threatening emergency visit to the ER. He kept insisting that broken toes are nothing, that all they'd do if I saw a doctor was to tape it to the next one over, and I could do that at home.

Six weeks later, when it hadn't healed at all, I finally did go to the doctor and it turns out I really needed a *lot* more than taping for that toe; it was an ugly break. But at that point, it was too late to do things right. It took more than 6 months for the pain to really start to go away, and (8 years later) it's still much larger than the corresponding toe on the other foot. I really wish I'd gone to the ER, or at least to the doctor the next day. And gotten the *right* treatment for that broken toe.

~ ~ ~

A comment above suggests dislocation. If broken, well, I know that all breaks are not simple. Maybe if you do go, they'll find something else that ought to be done for proper healing, and that will make it heal faster, better, or at least possibly without all the annoying complications I was left with.
posted by galadriel at 10:58 AM on September 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks guys -- i'll probably get myself to a doctor in the next week. I can start taping it next week when I buy some black shoes (sigh, yes my job requires me to wear clear heels.) To clarify though -- it only hurts when it gets pressure on one specific spot. It doesn't hurt all the way down the foot, and it doesn't hurt when I bend it. Only when the weird bump is pressed on. But thanks for the advice -- I'm in Canada so if an x-ray is necessary my health care will cover it. Too bad it'll probably take so long to heal though :-(
posted by custard heart at 11:41 AM on September 6, 2010

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