Fractures of the toe and forefoot are typically a result of a direct blow to the foot. Accidentally striking a hard surface or dropping an object on your toes is a common cause of fractures. They also occur as a result of overuse and repetitive stress from high-impact sports. These fractures can be incredibly painful, but rarely require surgery for correction.
Toe and forefoot fractures are produced by trauma or direct force to the bone. Fractures that develop after repetitive activities are called stress fractures. Non-displaced fractures cause the bone to crack, but the ends of the bone remain connected. Displaced fractures partially or separate the ends of the broken bones. Understanding whether the fracture is open or closed molds the path for proper treatment. Open fractures break the skin, and the wound extends down to the bone. However, closed fractures do not break the skin. Open fractures are serious and should be addressed quickly. Once the skin is broken bacteria can enter the wound and cause infection.
Symptoms of a fracture include pain, swelling, bruising, discoloration, and pain when walking or weight bearing.
It’s important to visit the doctor immediately after the fracture occurs. An untreated fracture won’t heal correctly, long-term producing chronic foot pain and arthritis, possibly impacted the individual’s ability to walk. There are a few treatments patients can try at home while they wait to visit the doctor. Applying ice, elevating the feet and wrapping the foot will help to reduce swelling and pain.
Treatment depends on the location and severity of the injury. Most broken toes can be treated symptomatically. Metatarsal fractures are initially treated with elevation and limited weight bearing. A walking boot or cast may be required to recover fully. Fifth metatarsal fractures can be treated with weight bearing, but typically need a boot, simply because of the location of the bones. Healing can take from four to eight weeks. A doctor will tell you when it is safe to resume regular activities.