What Is A Stubbed Toe?

If you are walking at your home barefoot and if accidently you hit a part of a chair or some other furniture, then you are said to have suffered a Stubbed Toe. It is quite a common foot injury which people acquire every now and then. This injury may result in quite a bit of pain but it is not a serious problem and the pain resolves on its own after some time but in cases where the pain does not subside even after a couple of days after the injury then you may need to seek an opinion from a healthcare professional.

Stubbed Toe

Why Does A Stubbed Toe Cause Exaggerated Pain Response?

Some people may have a question as to how can one have so much pain by just being hit by a piece of furniture in the toe area. The answer to this is that the toes have numerous nerve endings which contribute in sending pain signals to the central nervous system which results in a more than normal pain response from the body. Stubbed Toe is an extremely painful condition and results in exaggerated pain response. The reason for such an amplified pain is that the nerves present in the toes are very sensitive especially to pain and send pain signals to the central nervous system which is responsible for producing a significant pain response. This injury usually occurs when the person is walking barefoot like at home.

How To Find Out If A Stubbed Toe Is Actually A Toe Fracture?

In some cases if you hit a bit too hard on the furniture or something falls on your toe region then instead of a Stubbed Toe you can also suffer a broken toe hence it is important to understand the difference between a Stubbed Toe injury and a broken toe. Below mentioned are some symptoms by which you can identify whether you have injured the toe or actually broken it:

  • Persistent pain which does not subside even after applying ice to the affected area or taking pain medication
  • Inability to move the toe
  • Discoloration of the toe region which stays for several days
  • Swelling of the toe region
  • Visible deformity of the toe suggesting a fracture
  • Difficulty ambulating.

These symptoms mentioned above point to a toe fracture but that may not be the case always but it is recommended that if you have the above symptoms then seek consultation with a physician to rule out a fracture.

How Is Stubbed Toe Diagnosed?

Apart from fracturing your toe when stubbing it against something, this may also cause dislocation, soft tissue injuries, ligament sprains and the like, hence if your symptoms do not resolve and you go to the physician then he or she might order radiographs in the form of x-rays to take a look at the toe region and rule out potentially complicated injuries to the toe. To begin with the treating physician will take a close look at the toe to look for any discoloration or deformity which may point to a fracture. The next step towards diagnosis will be light palpation of the injured area to look for signs of tenderness and pain. The physician will then put the toe through range of motion to test whether the toe can be moved normally or not to rule out any soft tissue injuries or ligament sprains aside from a fracture. In case if a significant injury is suspected then the you will be recommended to an orthopedic for further evaluation and treatment but if it is just a contusion then the physician may recommend just icing it and taking pain medication and the pain will resolve with time.

How Is Stubbed Toe Treated?

As stated above, Stubbed Toe is not termed as a serious medical condition and mostly resolves on its own. The best way to treat Stubbed Toes is to apply ice to the affected area to calm down the pain and swelling. Taking pain medications also helps to a degree. Always pay close attention to any skin discoloration that may be present to see if that starts to resolve in a couple of days or not. If there is some sort of bruising present in the region then make sure to apply bandaid or topical cream to prevent infection. Also of importance is wearing shoes after a Stubbed Toe injury. It is recommended to avoid wearing tight fitting shoes or shoes with a cramped toe box. Sandals may be the best as it keeps the toes free, at least till the swelling goes down. When it comes to children sustaining a Stubbed Toe injury, which happens quite often, again consideration should given to the type of footwear the child wears. In case of the symptoms not subsiding on its own, consulting with a physician is advisable.

What Are The Complications Of A Stubbed Toe?

Stubbed Toe usually does not have any complications. In some cases of bruising which has not been treated properly there have been cases of infection in the region which needs further treatment. This happens when the individual has an additional medical condition of an ingrown toenail. In such cases antibiotics may be required to treat the infection. Diabetics who stub their toe need to be extra careful as they invite infection more quickly than others and also are prone to foot ulcers. Another potential complication of a stubbed toe injury is osteoarthritis which may tend to develop in people who have frequent injuries like this as this leads to constant wear and tear of the bones of the foot and it is observed that osteoarthritis of the foot is more often than not caused by Stubbed Toe injuries. Hence it is important to take adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D in your daily diet to prevent yourself from conditions like osteoarthritis. Walking barefoot may injure the foot hence it is advised to wear slippers when walking at home so as to avoid getting a Stubbed Toe injury.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: April 7, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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