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February 24, 2015 3:21 PM   Subscribe

I banged my poor little toe into the corner of the coffee table two weeks ago. I seem to have either sprained or broken it. It doesn't seem to be getting better, in fact it's hurt worse than ever the last couple days.

The toe was bruised and slightly swollen the first couple days, but the bruise has healed now. I think it's still swollen, a bit. I can move it, but it hurts. YANMD, but should I see one? Curiously, the pain has now started radiating up my foot in the last couple days, and it wasn't doing that before. I'm concerned that I might have broken it, and it's healing wrong, somehow. On the other hand, a stubbed toe seems like an absurd thing to see a doctor about. But I rely on my feet as my sole form of transportation; I need them not to hurt!
posted by backwards compatible to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My little toes basically contain sand because I break one roughly every other year. There's nothing the doctor can do, except tape that toe to the next if it provides a level of support that's more comfortable for you. Open-toed shoes also help, if you're in a position to wear them during the day.

I banged a finger last year and was concerned that it was broken. My doctor saw how swollen it was and immediately ordered an x-ray. He said to me, "I want to know for certain if it's broken, because really care about fingers. Toes," he said, "we don't really care about at all."
posted by mudpuppie at 3:26 PM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: A friend of mine dropped a very large weight on his toe, and I took him to the clinic. The doctor basically looked at it, said "it's a toe", and sent him on his way. It apparently hurt like a bugger for a long time, but there's really not a lot they do for toes.

In other words, be prepared for 1) it to be broken, and 2) nothing to be done about it. Sorry.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:27 PM on February 24, 2015

Best answer: I did essentially this (ok I was kicking, not stubbing) and the same happened. It didn't get better for weeks and seemed to get worse. I did go to the doc and she said it was probably a hairline fracture and there was nothing to do but wait for it to heal.

I think you should see your family doctor. You have nothing to lose and you never know if it actually is something. If it's getting worse, it could be infected (though presumably there's no broken skin). If it's nothing, then great!
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:29 PM on February 24, 2015

Best answer: Yup, tape it to the toe next door and wear flip flops / sandals if you can.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:32 PM on February 24, 2015

Best answer: It sucks because it is PAINFUL! But there's nothing you can do. I once broke two toes and it hurt like a mo-fo. I went to the doctor who referred me for an X-ray. I asked what he could do about it if it was broken. "Nothing, but maybe you broke it higher up into the metatarsals." I asked, "and?" He replied, "it would explain why it still hurts."

You can alternate ice and heat to help the swelling, and keep your foot in a non-constricting shoe. Slippers are best!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:37 PM on February 24, 2015

Best answer: I broke my toe this summer, but I never had any "pain radiating up my foot" from it. Maybe get that checked.
posted by thelonius at 3:42 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We can't just dismiss this as "oh it's just a toe" while the pain gets worse for the OP. We don't know what complications there could be.

OP, just go to the doctor, at worst they might say "it's just a toe". Maybe they'll have some useful painkillers.
posted by tel3path at 3:47 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I, too, have often broken toes, which have healed "right" as well as "wrong" (permanently crooked). I agree that there is likely not much to be done unless it is a big toe (in which case you may get crutches) but your note that you have "pain [that] has now started radiating up" suggests that you may have more going on here and may have a need to see a doctor. As for me, I keep a roll of tape in my medicine cabinet, as well as a toe splint I was once given and just immobilize as necessary. It sucks, I'm sorry.
posted by Morrigan at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. I also thought the pain up into my foot was weird, so I'll make an appointment with my doctor.
posted by backwards compatible at 4:06 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't find the citation, but I read somewhere that the unreasonable pain of toe injury is an adaptation to our (human) bipedal travel. We are supposed to care carefully for our feet, because bipedalism is our main physical trick.
posted by hexatron at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I kicked a solid wood dresser hard in a fit of adolescent rage and broke a couple of my toes. They turned black and blue and hurt like hell but I was too embarassed to tell my folks how I did it, so I suffered it out. I taped them together and they got better eventually. I still felt the occasional dull pain in them sometimes for a few years after that but not in recent memory.

These days, I wouldn't be prone to taking my aggression out on furniture but if I thought I had a broken toe, I'd go to the doctor. Why not?
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:57 PM on February 24, 2015

Seems to me they should at least give you a big hard shoe or something to protect it from further injury. Geez.
posted by serena15221 at 6:27 PM on February 24, 2015

I broke my toe in karate a couple of decades back, and in addition to the x-ray, I got instruction on how to properly tape it to the toe next to it, a scrip for painkillers, and a scrip for a hard shoe so I wouldn't keep re-injuring it as I walked. I wouldn't stand for a doc that wouldn't give me, at the very least, a hard shoe or a very good explanation for why one wasn't necessary.
posted by telophase at 6:43 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I stubbed my pinky toe on the coffee table too and it hurt for months (it turned completely blue at first, which I have to admit was cool). I assume it was broken or fractured or something - never went to the doctor. But I never had the pain radiating up the foot and it definitely seems worth getting that checked out.
posted by sunflower16 at 7:02 PM on February 24, 2015

I recently bitched up my foot - nothing was broken, but felt very painful and fragile even after the bruises healed. When it didn't seem to be getting better after weeks, I went for an x-ray and was told I had a crush injury and nerve damage that there was basically nothing to be done for, except painkillers.

I was also clued in to the fact that the RICE deal - rest, ice, compression, elevation - is still of use after the swelling subsides. I'd done that at first, then stopped when the swelling went away - I guess I assumed I was on the mend and those things were no longer necessary. Starting all those things up again, even weeks later, was HUGELY helpful. Between that and an antiinflammatory, I'd say my pain went down 50% overnight. Just a thought, as these things certainly couldn't hurt to try. YMMV, good luck!

PS "elevation" means for real, elevating the foot above your heart. Coffee table propping up doesn't cut it.
posted by jessicapierce at 7:07 PM on February 24, 2015

My broken "toe" in middle school ([mis]diagnosed by a doctor) actually turned out to be a broken bone in my foot. I would get it checked out!
posted by kylej at 8:22 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe check out a hard-soled post-op orthopedic shoe?
posted by persona au gratin at 2:01 AM on February 25, 2015

IANAD but I've had broken toes happen to me and my kids over 4 times. I would see a doctor just because doctors and maybe painkillers so you can sleep.

Toe injuries can take at least 5 weeks, usually longer, to feel better. They need a lot of rest (and compression and ice and elevation too) but since you're probably still walking around, it can take a whole lot longer to heal. The radiating pain can result from bruised or even torn ligaments; so if you're still up and about, it's slowing the healing process.

It's doubtful a doctor will have any more of a fix than you're getting here EXCEPT they may be able to get you an aircast for nothing, otherwise I'd ask about buying one. Forget flipflops or sandals. You want a heavy-duty plastic boot that covers everything , keeps those toes slightly compressed and avoids the possibility of overusing or straining the muscles and ligaments in the foot.

Good luck; broken toes are frustratingly painful and can seemingly take forever to get better.
posted by kinetic at 2:50 AM on February 25, 2015

Here's my own Askme about a similar situation, from a couple of years back. FWIW, that foot would randomly get sore sometimes for a year or so after that, but I don't remember the last time it really bothered me. Sometimes I suspect I did some lasting damage, but it's nothing that's affected my life in a major way.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:16 AM on February 25, 2015

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