A sprained toe is one of the most common forms of foot injury. Sports persons who are associated with soccer, football, basketball, rugby, etc., are at a higher risk of this injury. Runners can sprain their toe if they stop suddenly while running, as this results in jamming of the toes inside the shoes. Similarly, jumping awkwardly or a bad fall can also lead to this problem. Others can get it while walking on an uneven surface or if the toe gets crushed into some hard surface.
The most commonly seen symptoms of a sprained toe are pain, tenderness, and swelling in the toe and the surrounding areas. Sometimes, bruising may also occur in the toe. Basically, the sprain occurs when the underlying ligament is damaged. The damage can be categorized into three different grades.
The first grade results from a micro tear in the ligament. The typical characteristic of this pain is that it is not constant, as it comes and goes. As a result, the injured person can walk around without much difficulty. The second grade is partial tearing of the ligament, where the symptoms are moderate and the patient feels the pain only while moving the toe. The third grade is the most serious form of injury, where the ligament is torn completely and the symptoms are more severe too. Many a time, the symptoms have a lot of similarity with those of a stress fracture.
When you have sustained a sprain in the toe, the first thing that should be done is to give the injured area proper rest. This will help to heal the injury faster. Application of ice can also have a soothing effect on pain and swelling. However, do not put the ice directly on the injured toe. Rather, put the ice cubes in a plastic bag, wrap it up with a towel, and then place it over the injured toe. Apply the ice packs at least 4-5 times a day for the first three days after the injury. Compression of the toe will be a bit difficult. However, if the injury is on the big toe, you can wrap it in compression bandage and then wrap the entire forefoot in the same bandage. The injured foot should always be kept in an elevated position for the first two days. This will reduce the blood flow to the area and help in bringing down the swelling. If the pain is bothering you too much, take some over-the-counter pain relieving medicine for pain relief.
Healing time depends on the severity of the injury. One can recover from a minor sprain within a day or two if it is treated properly. For a more serious sprain, it will take about a week to ten days to heal. When the sprain is acute and the range of motion of the toe is badly affected, the recovery time will be even longer, a few weeks or even months. The main aim of rehabilitation is to help the patient resume the normal activities without causing any further injury.
Once the pain and swelling subsides, exercises are highly beneficial in this regard as they add strength and flexibility to the injured toe. They can also help to regain the full range of motion of the toes through exercises. Some of the common exercises are flexing and stretching the toes. To perform these exercises, wear special closed-toed protective shoes with stiff sole and wide toe boxes that will prevent their pinching. It is always advisable to do the exercises under the supervision of a therapist.
If the toe is not healing despite all the treatment, then it is likely that there is a fracture. In that case, you should consult your doctor, who will diagnose the problem with the help of X-rays. Broken toe treatment involves splinting of the toe in order to keep it in a stable condition. A sprained toe should never be ignored as it can lead to serious complications in future, like foot deformity, chronic pain in the ankle, hip, and knee joints, or even arthritis.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.