Sprained Toe Diagnosis and Treatment

Last updated: 02-21-2021

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Sprained Toe Diagnosis and Treatment

A sprained toe occurs when you damage or tear the connective tissue in one or more of your toe joints. Damage to any of the following areas can lead to a sprained toe.



Joint Capsule

See, each toe in your foot is comprised of three small bones known as phalanges (except for your big toe, which has two phalanges). These bones are connected to one another at the interphalangeal joint and to the bones of the midfoot at the metatarsophalangeal joint. Each of these joints is made up of strong connective tissue and cartilage. If you damage or tear any of that tissue, you’ll be stuck dealing with a sprained toe.

If you’re an active individual, it’s not uncommon to suffer a sprained toe during athletic activity. Sports and athletic activities are one of the more common ways a person ends up with a sprained toe, but you don’t need to be an athlete to suffer a toe sprain. They can also occur when you stub your toe, during a trip or fall, or just by wearing a pair of ill-fitting shoes.
Symptoms of a Sprained Toe

Diagnosing a sprained toe is pretty simple if you know what to look for. Here are some common symptoms of a sprained toe:

Sudden onset of toe pain during casual activity


Pain on the front, back of side of the toe joint




Similar to ankle sprains, toe sprains are graded based on their severity. A Grade 1 toe sprain involves some microtearing of the ligament tissue. A Grade 2 toe sprain is characterized by partial tearing of the ligament tissue and mild instability of the toe joint. Finally, a Grade 3 toe sprain involves a severe or complete tear of the ligament tissue and significant instability of the toe joint.
Treatment of a Sprained Toe

If you come into the clinic with concerns over your injured toe, your doctor will likely take a look at the injury via X-ray, MRI or CT scan. An X-ray is typically used to determine if any fracture has occurred. Once your doctor has diagnosed the sprain, treatment is generally pretty straightforward. Resting the toe is a great start, but it should be combined with the other elements of the RICE treatment method, which includes ice, compression and elevation.

Additionally, your doctor may prescribe a course of pain medications, and it would be wise to consider wearing a shoe with a stiff sole to help protect your toe when moving. These injuries typically heal within a few days or weeks.

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