Stubbed Toe: Diagnosis, Imaging And Treatment

A stubbed toe means that there is trauma to the toe which causes soft tissue or bony injury.  This can be intensely painful and result in sprains, bruising, nail injuries, infections and broken bones.  In some cases X-rays are used to look for injuries like fractures.

What is a stubbed toe?

A stubbed toe occurs when there is an injury to the toe from trauma.  This can occur when you hit your toe on a piece of furniture, trip, or jam your toe. This can occur at night to the pinky toe when you hit it on your bed or a piece of furniture.

Symptoms of a stubbed toe

Symptoms of a stubbed toe can include intense pain which can radiate into the ankle or foot, pain when bearing weight on the toe, and difficulty walking.

The toe can be bruised, deformed from a break in the bone or dislocation.  There can be a nail injury.  There can be an infection in some cases.

How is stubbed toe diagnosed?

Stubbed toe can be a simple bruise all the way to serious fracture with displaced bones and joints.   X-rays are commonly used to assess injuries for symptoms which do not go away.  X-rays can show us a fracture of the bone and dislocation of the joint.

How do you know if a stubbed toe is broken or just bruised?

To be sure, you would need an X-ray.  A broken toe is more likely to be symptomatic for longer periods of time.  A broken toe can have bruising and swelling, deformity from broken bones, trouble walking and moving the toe, or a loss of feeling of the toe.

What does a stubbed toe look like on X-ray?

A stubbed toe may be normal on X-ray.  We can only see a broken bone and dislocated joint in the toe on X-ray.  Sprains, bruising, and toe nail injuries will not be seen on X-ray.

What else can look like a stubbed toe on X-ray?

Only fractures and dislocations will be seen on toe X-rays.  A fracture and dislocation is often confidently diagnosed on X-rays.  Sometimes there are variants in the appearance of toes on X-ray  which can be misdiagnosed as fracture.

Is a stubbed toe dangerous?

A stubbed toe is usually not dangerous and will heal on its own.  In some cases, the injury may be more serious and require urgent medical attention.  Some signs to watch for are severe pain which does not go away, difficulty waking, severe swelling, toe nail injury, and infection.

What type of doctor treats a stubbed toe?

There is not one type of doctor which treats a stubbed toe.  A doctor in an urgent care center or emergency room can treat a stubbed toe.  A more complex or serious injury may require orthopedic specialty care.

Stubbed toe treatment

Treatment may consist of taping the injured toe to the nearby toe.  Over the counter pain relievers can be tried.

RICE method is effective.  This includes resting the foot and not placing weight on it.  Application of ice packs.   Compression involves wrapping the inured area to reduce swelling.  Elevating the injured area will also help.

More severe injuries may require orthopedic care and surgery.

Stubbed toe: summary

Stubbed toe is a common injury that will often heal on its own.  Complications and more severe injuries may need more urgent medical attention and specialty care.  X-rays are used to diagnose fractures and dislocations of the joints.  Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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