Dislocated Toe Overview
Having a dislocated toe is different than having a sprained toe or broken toe. The toe can sometimes be easily put back into place without an extended recovery period, although many of the symptoms are similar to a broken or sprained toe, treatment for dislocated toes can sometimes be quite rapid and have immediate results.
The toe joint pain caused by a dislocation often comes from direct or indirect impact to the injured area, however the injury can sometimes occur after a toe sprain. The toe is classified as dislocated when the bones are out of place and can sometimes appear visibly misaligned. Athletes are some of the most common victims of toe dislocations and often experience toe ligament injuries or tears accompanying the original injury.
After any toe pain one should aim to treat it as soon as possible. As previously mentioned, if the dislocation is treated quickly after the injury, the toe joint can sometimes be reset easily. If the toe has received no serious treatment after six hours, resetting the toe should wait until you are in the care of a medical professional, a podiatrist in particular.
Dislocated toes can arise from both major and minor injuries. Walking on even terrain, overloading pressure on one portion of the foot or direct trauma to the toe can all lead to a toe injury. All it takes is for a bone to slip out of place; even rolling the foot can put unnatural stress on a certain area o the toe leading to a dislocation.
Sports such as rugby, soccer, hockey and football have high number of players who face toe injuries, particularly dislocations. Turf toe is another common injury that athletes face when playing on harder surfaces which can put a lot of strain on one’s toes. Changing direction quickly or stopping and starting on a regular basis places an increased risk of toe joint pain, especially big toe joint pain. However in regards to dislocated toe injuries, the smaller toes are generally more likely to be dislocated whereas the larger toes are more likely to face more serious injuries.
Diagnosing dislocated toe symptoms can sometimes be complicated due to the fact the injury shares many similarities to that of a sprained toe or broken toe. The injury will likely be very painful at the time of dislocation and the injured person will experience intense pain when trying to move the injured digit to put pressure on the toe area.
Difficulty walking, swelling and bruising will occur after the injury as well as an overall tenderness in the damaged area. Removing socks and shoes could be a cautious process in order to prevent any unnecessary toe pain or additional harm on top of the original injury.
The toe can also be visibly deformed and sometimes clearly out of place which can be the toe easily distinguishable as dislocated. The bones in the toe might appear out of place or out of alignment. Numbness or toe paralysis can also occur if blood vessels or nerves are being pinched or pressured.
Take note if you notice any abnormal movement in the toe or the inability to move the toe at all as these could be the result of dislocated toe complications. Injury or harm to the toenail, foot or other toes are additional risks when the toe trauma occurs so check around the painful area to see if there are any other injuries that may be masked by the toe injury pain.
How to Treat a Dislocated Toe
If you plan on treating your dislocated toe at home, the sooner you start the better especially if you plan on manipulating the injured toe back into its original position. Many tissues within the toe begin to lose their elasticity after an injury and if six hour have passed, no self adjustment should be attempted as more harm than good is likely to arise.
If the dislocated toe symptoms show an obvious crookedness in the knuckle or joint area of the injured toe, it is possible to correct the dislocation yourself. This will require you to gently pull or tug on the injured toe away from the foot. By pulling the toe away you are realigning the toe and hopefully allowing it to snap back into position. The manoeuvre can be painful but should be done quickly in one swift move to minimize damage or prolonged toe pain.
Ensure you are keeping weight off the foot and toe area and following the home care steps of R.I.C.E. to continue treating the toe.
Rest: Having injured your toe, rest is one of the best steps to avoid toe joint pain. Walking, general movement, especially weight-bearing movement can have painful and harmful effects on any toe injuries. Aim to spend the least amount of time possible on your feet. If you’ve been able to readjust the toe back into position, resting is still a good idea to make sure that you don’t put any unnecessary stress on the toe or even re-injure the toe again.
Ice: Applying cold to the dislocated toe before or after the alignment will greatly reduce swelling and help alleviate some of the pain felt in the injured toe. Be careful not to put the ice directly on the toes as the minuscule blood vessels at the ends of your feet and spasm if subjected to very cold temperatures. Find a thin sheet of fabric to protect the skin and hold the ice (in the form of an icepack, frozen peas/corn or other) to the injured area with your hand or a lightly wrapped bandage.
The ice will reduce swelling and slow inflammation in the injured area. Be careful not to numb the toes and or confuse the effects of the ice with possible complications related to the injury. The ice should act as a blood vessel contractor the gently restricts circulation to the area of toe pain to reduce pain and then encourages a rush of nutrients as the vessel dilate after the ice is removed. Ice should be applied for periods of approximately 20 minutes every two or three hours for the initial days following the incident.
Compression: a medical band can be used to carefully wrap and apply pressure to the injured toe joint which will help to reduce swelling and limit movement. Even flexing your toes involuntarily can be painful with a toe dislocation and apply compression will aid in recovery. Remember that while toe compression can limit swelling, too much can delay the healing process by limiting blood supply.
Elevation: Boosting your injured toes up also helps to reduce the swelling and encourages the body to pump blood actively into the elevated area. If your dislocation is bothering you at any time elevating the area and limiting movement will likely reduce some of the symptoms as well as give your body a chance to focus on healing the injured area faster than it would with pressure or strain from use.
If there is no improvement in the toe pain after the adjustment or if the toe joint pain increases make sure you seek the assistance of a medical doctor or podiatrist. Toe injuries have the chance of getting worse or healing improperly which can lead to toe deformation and/or long term pain in and around the damaged area.
Getting immediate medical treatment if you are unable to realign the dislocated toe is imperative. A doctor will be able analyze the condition of the injured toe joint and be able to prescribe further treatment ranging from medication to icing to special foot protection. If the dislocation is severe or possibly related to a sprained toe or turf toe in any way, x-rays or MRI scans may be taken to determine if there is any other trauma.
Reduction or buddy taping is a common solution to a dislocated toe injury and if you are unsure of your own ability to rest the toe in its natural position you will without doubt want to seek the guidance of a medical professional.
After leaving the doctor, caring for the toe will involve rest and applying ice along with elevation. After 3 to 7 days, easy toe rehabilitation exercises or gentle use of the injured foot may be okay. Some exercises include:
Dislocated Toe Exercises
Vertical Toe Raise: Placing your hands between two solid positions at waist level as support, carefully lever weight onto the injured foot. Press into the ground the injured toes raising yourself away from the ground until the point of pain. Hold this position for five seconds while supporting yourself with your hands and then slowly release back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 12 times two to three times per day.
Horizontal Toe Press: Press your injured foot against a wall with the tip of toes just touching the wall. Place your injured leg behind you and place your hands on the wall for support. Carefully lever the toes onto the wall and slowly apply pressure downwards stretching your toes until the point of pain. Hold this position for five seconds while supporting yourself with your hands and then slowly release back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 12 times two to three times per day.
Vertical Toe Press: Placing your hands between two solid positions at waist level as support, carefully lever weight onto the injured foot. Curl the toes behind you and press into the ground the injured toes until the point of pain. Hold this position for five seconds while supporting yourself with your hands and then slowly release back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 12 times two to three times per day.
Remember to use caution when using the toe. Starting out gently with the least amount of pressure is important. With the time the toe will strengthen and not be as noticeable but it is still vital that you are careful not to stub the toe or risk causing harm to the recovering area. Any additional damage can delay the healing process or cause even greater impairment. If you plan on returning to a sport or participating in any exercise, buddy-tape the toe to a neighbour to prevent movement and limit the chances of re-injuring the toe.
Dislocated toes are not as serious as sprained toes or broken toes, but they are painful and certainly require immediate attention when the injury occurs. You can avoid dislocation by wearing well designed shoes that fit your feet and allow less room for sliding. Minimalist shoes are a great shoe which adapt to the foot, which allows for the natural freedom of movement to occur without risk of hammer toe or stress sprains.
Prevention is important, but so is handling the toe injury correctly. Ensure you seek medical attention if you are not confident enough to adjust the toe yourself or if there is severe discomfort after realignment. It is always better to be on the safe side when it comes to a body part that you need to walk correctly with.
When resuming and sports play or exercise, use caution and any methods that help limit future injury (which includes rest). Treat not only your toes, but your entire body with respect, especially as it is recovering.