How to Properly Care for a Dislocated Toe

by | Nov 30, 2022

Toe dislocations are common injuries. Although anyone can experience a dislocated toe, they are more common in athletes. A dislocated toe may occur in conjunction with another injury, such as a fracture or a torn ligament. No matter the cause, it’s important that you receive immediate treatment to prevent complications and ensure you make a full recovery.

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What Happens When You Dislocate a Toe?

When you dislocate a toe, you experience a complete separation of bones in the joint. This often accompanies torn ligaments, tissues forced out of potion, torn muscles, or torn tendons. It may also occur concurrently with a fracture (broken bone).

You may dislocate your toe in one of three joints:

  • Joint closest to the tip of your toe (distal interphalangeal joint)
  • Joint in the middle of the toe (proximal interphalangeal joint)
  • Joint that joins the foot to the toe (metatarsophalangeal joint)

Common Causes of Toe Dislocations

A dislocated toe may result from a progressive condition, a malformation in the toe, a structural issue present from birth, blunt trauma, and repetitive motion. Specifically, you may suffer a dislocated toe due to:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hammer toe
  • Stubbing your toe or hitting your toe on an object
  • Repetitive use (overuse)
  • Exercise and sports (dancing, running)
  • Fall
  • Accident (car, bicycle, motorcycle)

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Symptoms of a Dislocated Toe

If you suffer a dislocation as the result of an acute injury, expect to experience severe pain. Over time, symptoms will emerge including:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty moving the toe
  • Crooked toe
  • Numbness in the toe

Because these symptoms often mimic other conditions including turf toe, or a broken or sprained toe, you should receive medical care as soon as possible. This will ensure that you receive proper treatment for the specific injury.

Treatment for a Dislocated Toe

If you suspect you’ve dislocated a toe, do not attempt to put the toe back in place by yourself. Trying to force a toe into position, without knowing what other injuries are present can make the problem worse, in addition to causing significant pain.

Instead, try to keep the toe stable, and apply ice to reduce swelling until you can see a foot and ankle specialist.

At your appointment, your foot and ankle specialist will order x-rays. X-rays are an invaluable tool that serves multiple purposes:

  • Confirm the complete separation of the bones
  • Confirm which of the three joints is dislocated
  • Confirm the extent to which the bones have separated
  • Identify any other injuries, such as a fracture

Most of the time a dislocated toe can be treated non-surgically with conservative treatments. Severe dislocations may require surgery, to achieve proper bone realignment. There are two methods for realigning a dislocated toe:

  • Closed reduction
    You will be given a local anesthetic, and your doctor will manually move the bones back into the proper position.
  • Open reduction
    Your specialist will open the toe in surgery to reposition the bones.

Your doctor will advise you to rest the toe following your treatment. You may be prescribed crutches, an orthopedic boot, or splint therapy in the immediate aftermath of your treatment. Your toe may be taped to an adjacent toe. Physical therapy, coupled with icing, elevation, and resting the impacted foot will also be part of your recovery.

Book an Appointment for a Toe Injury in Eugene

If you’re experiencing pain, swelling, tenderness, or a toe that looks bent or crooked, schedule an appointment at Eugene Foot & Ankle. A proper diagnosis of foot, ankle, and toe injuries are essential to ensure you experience a full recovery from your injury. To book an appointment, send us a message or call 541-683-3351 today.

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