Pinto Toe
February 25, 2011 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Without a podiatrist, how do I fix my big toe? I do not think it is a hangnail, and it looks normal to the eye. But I could bump it on a down pillow and it will be so painful I want to chop it off. And it's a delayed pain.

I run minimal distances each week and play some sports a couple times a month, but I am not doing anything major. In fact, the injury rarely hurts just before, during or after physical activity in general, or any specific activity.

It's the top, outside part of my big toe. Visually, it looks normal. No gunk, no smell, nothing odd. But occasionally I slightly graze it on something and dear god I want to rip my own hair out it hurts so bad. The weird thing is, it doesn't hurt for about 3 seconds (and then it kills).

I can jump on it and it's fine. The pain is from something hitting it head on or side on. If I take a misstep and stub my toe while walking, oh the pain. This has been going on for months to up to a year, and keeps happening. I realize my shoes may be causing the problem, but for now, I just need to fix it before I bite my own toe off.

I have tried cutting away the skin around that part, assuming it was a hangnail of some sort. I did that and put a bandaid on it to further pull the skin away from the nail. That has not helped.

Tried soaking it in hydrogen peroxide. Nope. Soaking it in alcohol. No changes. With both, I would make sure it got in there between the top outside skin and nail bed. Zip.

What can I do without a podiatrist? What is this ultra painful big toe problem?

What do I buy or do, cut or bandage to fix this?
posted by cashman to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How long has this been going on? Because when this happened to two different people I know, it turned out to be gout. But for them it seemed to get worse over time.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2011

I agree with the gout thought..

But, for ingrown nails etc, I thought epsom salts were the answer for soaking, not h202 or alcohol..
posted by k5.user at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2011

Are you sure its not an ingrown nail? Your description of what kind of impact i takes to make it hurt sounds like a possibility. (If its REALLY ingrown, you'd probably need to see a doctor.)
posted by Kololo at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2011

It sounds a little like an ingrown toenail to me. I've had similar pain in the same location for that very reason. If it's as painful as you describe, though, I have to wonder if it's an infection. I'm not sure what you can or should do on your own in that case, but at least visit a regular doctor if not a specialist.
posted by katillathehun at 9:33 AM on February 25, 2011

Not to be alarmist, but this could be peripheral neuropathy. You should get it checked out.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:34 AM on February 25, 2011

The traditional herbal remedy for gout is black cherry juice.* My stepfather gets gout & he says it makes a definite difference. He is, by & large, not a natural-cures oriented person.

*get it from the medicinal section of a natural foods/remedies store, not the juice & drinks aisle.
posted by Ys at 9:39 AM on February 25, 2011

Response by poster: No worries wordwoman - it isn't that. The only thing I have of the symptoms, is the light touch pain thing.

Katillathehun & Kololo - it may be an ingrown nail. I might just suck at cutting the skin around it. Maybe the epsom salts k5.user suggests will help soften things and the nail will grow completely through (it's not that short honestly). I don't think it is gout. I don't know the symptoms, but you'd think there would be a smell or gunk or something. I'm pretty good with hygiene. I think repeated banging against my shoes during exercise exacerbated whatever it is. Then I cut my toenails (last year) thinking that would help - and maybe it hurt.
posted by cashman at 9:39 AM on February 25, 2011

Response by poster: Looked at the Mayo Clinic gout page. It is not gout. It's not the joint at all - it's the fleshy top outside part by the nail. Never wakes me up at night or comes on by itself. It is always with a bump or graze or stub.
posted by cashman at 9:41 AM on February 25, 2011

Gout is a buildup of crystals in your blood and tissues; there is no odor or external gunk involved. IANAD, but IAAML (I am a medical librarian).
posted by holyrood at 9:43 AM on February 25, 2011

If you're still thinking ingrown nail, this was recommended to me by a Dr. at a college that had a dance school (so they saw LOTS of f***d up feet):

1) Take a bandaid, cut a notch in it. Put the notch in the bandaid so that it brackets the top & side of the area that hurts. then pull the bandaid under the toe so & stick it to the other side of the toe/nail. (basically you are putting gentle traction on the skin, & because the bandaid is sticky and attaches to the good side of the toe, you can maintainit all day.)
2) using clippers/scissors, cut a small, v-shaped notch in the center of the end of the toenail. (the part that you would normally clip, not the base). It's ugly & your socks will hate it, but what they said is that, by notching nail, you change the pressure at the edges, where nail meets skin, allowing it to grow in a little differently.

This takes a week or two, since the correction occurs at the growth rate of the nail.
posted by Ys at 9:58 AM on February 25, 2011

posted by Wordwoman at 10:02 AM on February 25, 2011

What can I do without a podiatrist?

If it's an ingrown nail, you don't need a podiatrist. Any physician's assistant at a walk-in clinic can take care of it, cheaper than seeing a podiatrist (who may themselves tell you to turn around and see a physician's assistant).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:13 AM on February 25, 2011

Best answer: I had an ingrown toe nail. Big toe. Suffered with it for years, started out when I dropped ten pounds on it resulting in the nail (finally) sloughing off, and when the nail grew back it dug into the side of the nail bed, at the top, resulting in pain such as you're describing. Oh man, did it hurt. Like you say, stub it on a down pillow and it's a real show-stopper.

The only way I ever got it to quit hurting was to (patiently) let it grow all the way through the skin it'd dead-ended into and then leave it that way. It looked comical at first, having this long toenail sticking out into next week, but in fairly short order it came back to looking more normal -- whatever it is a normal toe looks like -- all that inflamed tissue receded. Now, no pain. At all. It was so worth suffering that two months or however long it was as the nail grew out, having it be hopping up and down REAL SENSITIVE like OW OW OW OW JESUS FUCKING CHRIST !!!! that whole time.

What I had been doing was cutting the nail out with this big-assed scissor implement sort of thing, digging it out of the corner of the quick, which provided relief but short-termed relief, it wasn't totally pain-free and it of course became real painful again as it grew out. I had a number of doctors -- and others, also -- telling me to let it grow through but they weren't feeling that pain, I was.

I've heard of other people who had to go to doctors to get these things treated somehow, the doctors cutting them out somehow, but that was never recommended to me; instead, just letting it grow. I did, it worked.

Obviously, I have no idea if this is what is getting you, but the pain sounds oh so familiar. Sorry it's happening to you, hope you can get it resolved; I'd rather watch a widow get her house foreclosed on than go through it again, I'd rather watch orphaned urchins eat mcdonalds food, I'd rather see a church burn, etc.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:32 AM on February 25, 2011

Ingrown toenail!!! Pointy-toe shoes contribute for me, but running makes it waaay worse.

It might not be a popular answer, but I swear by my Vietnamese manicurist--a monthly pedicure is the only thing that has kept these at bay for me. It'll hurt A LOT the first time, but if you go regularly it gets much better. Basically you're paying someone to dig out what is too painful for you to be able to dig out yourself, as lovely as that sounds. As long as the place is clean, have licenses on the walls, and you watch how they sterilize their instruments and tubs you'll be fine.
posted by stellaluna at 10:48 AM on February 25, 2011

You could just go get a pedicure. My salon takes care of my ingrown nails all the time. I see old guys in the place, getting their feet taken care of.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:00 PM on February 25, 2011

Can you slide something underneath your nail until the outside corner of your toenail comes up? This is probably the fastest way to diagnose an ingrown toenail. For mine, the infection has always been under (and sheltered and lovingly tended to by) the nail in question. Nthing that the only long term solution is letting it grow out so that the corner is past the flesh and can't dig in.
posted by anaelith at 10:15 PM on February 25, 2011

Response by poster: Obviously, I have no idea if this is what is getting you, but the pain sounds oh so familiar. Sorry it's happening to you, hope you can get it resolved; I'd rather watch a widow get her house foreclosed on than go through it again, I'd rather watch orphaned urchins eat mcdonalds food, I'd rather see a church burn, etc.

Yes!! You know this pain. I'm going to let it grow completely out. Hopefully by May I'll bounce back in here with a report of a pain free toe. It's already out there pretty good, so maybe even sooner.
posted by cashman at 12:56 PM on February 27, 2011

Response by poster: I slammed my foot against a chair today. And it hurt for a few seconds. And that was it. I grew the nail out as suggested, and it's about 96% healed. It's ever so slightly tender in a small spot, but I suspect that will heal also shortly. I've bumped it a bunch of times recently, with no pain. I know I have because I always do, not because I did and noticed the lack of pain.

Thank you dancestoblue!
posted by cashman at 4:11 PM on April 9, 2011

Response by poster: Finally - finally it seems to be completely healed. It is so wonderful.
posted by cashman at 1:19 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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