Stubbed toes - Symptoms
Stubbed toes can cause extreme pain, especially in the first few minutes after the stubbing. A stubbed toe basically means a toe that has been knocked or hit against something, end on. Pain is almost inevitable, especially when pressing over the stubbed area and it can often be difficult to tell if your toe is broken or not. A stubbed toe may swell and can form a bruise, often under the nail.
If your toe is deformed then it is likely to be broken or dislocated. Often, the only way to be certain of distinguishing a badly stubbed toe from one that is broken is to get an x-ray of the toe.
How are stubbed toes treated?
Once you have stopped hopping about the room cursing, there are a number of treatments that can help a stubbed toe. Usually, the pain will subside after 10 minutes or so and the toe may just feel a little sore for a short while.
With a worse stubbing, the toe may need to be rested by elevating your foot on a stool. This helps reduce swelling and relieves the throbbing pain; often this is only needed for a day.
Cool compresses and pain relieving medication may be required if the pain does not resolve, but if the pain from your stubbed toe is that bad then medical advice should be sought in case the toe is broken.
If a bruise has developed under the nail, then this can be really painful due to the pressure caused. Some medics advise that a sterile needle can be used to pierce through the nail and relieve the pressure, but this should only be performed by trained medical personnel as this procedure carries a risk of introducing infection.
Minor cracks or chips caused by a really hard stub are often able to be treated quite easily; strapping or bandaging of the toes allows the crack to heal within about three weeks.
If the toe is broken, then other procedures may be needed. Read here for more information on broken toe treatment.
What can go wrong with stubbed toes?
Unless your toe is in fact broken, a stubbed toe should usually completely resolve in a matter of a couple of hours. Occasionally a worse stub may take 24-48 hours. If pain persists after this, then the toe may be broken or there may be blood under the nail causing pain (seen as a dark patch or bruise under the nail). Rarely, complications can occur after a stubbed toe.
Infection - usually this only happens if the skin is broken when the toe is stubbed, or if a needle has been used to pierce the toenail (for this reason, this procedure should be performed with sterile equipment by trained medical personnel)
Stiffness - this may occur following a stubbed toe. Keeping the toe gently moving or even physiotherapy exercises may help to reduce this risk
Pain - stubbed toes often cause no long-term problems, although it is quite common to get 'niggling' aches and pains in the area. Rarely, severe pain may require further investigations such as x-rays
Other relevant SurgeryWise articles: Broken toes
The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding the right procedure or treatment for you. Please also read our disclaimer