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Frequently Asked Questions About a Sprain Versus Broken Toe

Man with hurt toe

Toe injuries are common, and they can occur in a number of different ways. You may have stubbed your toe, accidentally kicked something in the dark, stumbled and bent your toe at a weird angle, or dropped something on your toe.


Injuries to the toes can cause a lot of pain, especially if you try to walk on your foot. One of the questions that people often wonder about after a toe injury is whether they simply sprained their toe or whether their toe is broken, and if their toe is broken do they need to see a doctor? 


Read on to get all of the questions you may have about sprained versus broken toes.


What Are Some of the Signs That You Have a Sprained Toe?

The symptoms that you may experience with a toe sprain vary based on the severity of the sprain. If you have a fairly minor sprain, you may experience some swelling or tenderness in or around the toe or the base of the foot.


This swelling and pain should decrease with home treatment in a matter of days. If you have a more severe sprain, you may experience swelling, and bruising and you may struggle to move the toe. However, as a general rule of thumb, if the pain steadily gets better from day to day, particularly in the first week, you are likely dealing with a sprain.


What Are Some of the Signs That You Have a Broken Toe?

If you have a broken toe, you will experience some of the same symptoms as a severe sprain, including bruising and swelling. However, one of the key differences is where you feel the pain.


With a sprain, the pain is more general, you feel it throughout the toe and base of the foot. With a break, the pain is more localized, and you usually feel it specifically where the break is.


Breaks also take much longer to heal. You may not experience a huge decrease in bruising, swelling, or pain in the first week, as it takes longer than this to heal.


Lastly, you will struggle to move the toe, if you can move it at all, and you will feel pain when putting weight on the toe.


How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Sprain and Broken Toe?

Unfortunately, the only surefire way to determine if you have a sprain or a broken toe is to get an x-ray of the area. This can be done by a doctor or a podiatrist. Unless an x-ray is taken, there is no way to definitively determine if you have a sprain or a broken toe.


Are the Treatments For Sprained and Broken Toes the Same?

The treatments for sprained and broken toes are typically the same. There is not a lot that can be done for a sprained toe or a broken toe. It is recommended that you use over-the-counter pain relievers to help with both the pain and the swelling.


You can use ice to help with pain, swelling, and bruising. You may also want to tape your toes together to stabilize the toe. Additionally, you should avoid walking on the foot or placing weight on the foot as much as possible during the healing process.


When Should You See a Doctor For a Sprained or Broken Toe?

In most cases, a sprained or broken toe will heal on its own. However, in some cases, you may have a severe fracture and may need additional care, such as a walking boot, or you may even need surgery.


If you have hurt your toe and are in a lot of pain and home treatments are not helping, or if the swelling does not decrease or actually increases, you should be seen by a doctor.


Here at Sweeney Foot and Ankle Specialists, we can help you with all things feet, including toe sprains or broken toes. Schedule an appointment with us today and let's evaluate your toe and decide on a treatment plan to get your feet feeling better.