Sprained toes affect people in all walks of life, from athletes to the elderly and everyone in between. But what happens to your foot when you sprain your toe, and how can you treat these injuries? We take a closer look at some of the best ways to manage a sprained toe in today’s blog.
How Do Toe Sprains Occur?
Each one of your toes is stabilized by supportive ligaments that connect bones in the toes and aid in movement. When these ligaments are overly stressed or exposed to significant trauma, they can tear. When this happens, you’re dealing with a toe sprain. Toe sprains are quite common in sports where you do a lot of pushing off from the ground, but they can also occur if your toes get stepped on or if your stub your toe. Any action that causes the toe joints to overextend can lead to ligament tears and sprains.
Symptoms of a toe sprain include:
Difficulty moving or bending the toe
Bruising or discoloration
Symptoms of a toe sprain vary depending on the degree of sprain.
Grade I sprains are considered mild and involve some overstretching and microtears of the ligaments. Swelling and pain is usually minor.
Grade II sprains are considered moderate sprains with partial ligament tears. Pain, swelling and tenderness will be more noticeable with this type of sprain.
Grade III sprains are severe and involve a full tear of the ligament. Pain, swelling and discoloration are significant.
Treating Toe Sprains
If you’re dealing with just a toe sprain, the good news is that you can usually get by with conservative care at home. However, if the trauma that led to your toe sprain was significant, you may want to head to a foot specialist’s office to rule out a toe fracture. Grade III sprains may also benefit from visiting a specialist, so see how your symptoms stack up before deciding the best route for treatment.
Grade I and II toe sprains typically respond well to conservative care, like rest, ice, compression and elevation. Used in conjunction, these techniques will give the toe time to heal and help reduce swelling that can inhibit healthy healing. Some patients also find that over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatory agents can help during the recovery stage. Most people make a full recovery in a couple weeks, but it may only take days before it’s bearable to walk on your toes again.
For Grade III sprains, more hands-on care may be needed. You really need to protect your toes while healing runs its course, so a doctor may recommend a protective walking boot or crutches to take pressure off the foot. These may be prescribed for a few days to a few weeks, depending on the nature of the tear. Surgery is rarely needed for toe sprains, but may occur in significant sprains to the big toe (sometimes classified as a turf toe injury).