That sharp edge that you inadvertently struck, a heavy object that has fallen from your hand, a trauma directed on one of the five toes, for example while doing sports. Fracture of a toe is a fairly common occurrence at all ages and it is a typical domestic injury. When to suspect it and what are the first aid steps? We asked Dr. Antonio Voza, Head of Emergency Medicine at Humanitas.
Pain and swelling
The phalanxes of the toes are fourteen bones, three for each finger with the exception of the big toe, which has only two. These bones are especially prone to the risk of rupture, particularly proximal phalanges, those that are longer and close to the metatarsus. The fracture, however, may also be the result of a repetitive activity that has overstretched the bone and compromised its integrity. In this case we refer to it as “stress fracture”.
The symptoms that can lead to the fracture of a toe of the foot are certainly the pain and swelling of the finger, which can be associated with the onset of ecchymosis, difficulty in walking and pain while standing, especially when you discharge your body weight on the foot.
How to intervene?
Precisely because of the pain, aggravated by standing or movement, it is necessary to rest your foot as part of the first aid and try to avoid overloading your weight. It is essential to seek medical advice as soon as possible from a doctor who will be able to assess the extent of the fracture and define the best intervention. Remember that any neglected and undiagnosed fracture requires much longer healing times.
In the meantime, the R. I. C. E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol and its four indications can be used:
- Keep your foot in a high position;
- Keep your foot at rest;
- It is important to apply ice to reduce swelling with the caution of not having the skin directly in contact with ice;
- If possible, use gauze for a bandage.
When assessing the fracture, the physician will take into account the manner in which the trauma occurred and the symptoms experienced by the patient and observe any bone deformities. In this case, the “reduction” of fracture may be necessary to bring the bones to their physiological positioning. Pain-relieving agents may be used to relieve pain. An examination such as X-ray will provide valuable information on fractures.
While waiting for the fracture to heal, around six weeks after the accident, it will be important to limit or avoid physical activity. In many cases, for treatment, a small splint or bandage will be sufficient to hold the fractured toe together with the neighboring toe so that it remains stable.