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Home > Health Library > Toe, Foot, and Ankle Injuries
Everyone has had a minor toe, foot, or ankle injury that caused pain or swelling. Most of the time our body movements don't cause problems. But sometimes symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury.
Toe, foot, or ankle injuries most often occur during:
In children, most toe, foot, or ankle injuries occur during sports, play, or falls. The risk for injury is higher in sports with jumping, such as basketball. And it's higher in sports with quick direction change, such as soccer or football. Any bone injury near a joint may injure the growth plate (physis) in a child. It needs to be checked.
Certain athletes, such as dancers, gymnasts, and soccer or basketball players, have a higher risk of toe, foot, or ankle injuries.
Older adults are at higher risk for injuries and fractures. That's because they lose muscle mass and bone strength as they age. They also have more problems with vision and balance. These problems increase their risk of injury.
Most minor injuries will heal on their own. Home treatment is usually all that's needed.
An acute injury may occur from a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or a fall. It can also happen if you twist, jerk, jam, or bend a limb abnormally. Your pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may start soon after your injury. Acute injuries include:
Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on your joint or other tissue. It often happens when a person "overdoes" an activity or repeats the same activity over and over. Overuse injuries include:
Treatment for your toe, foot, or ankle injury may include first aid (such as using a brace, splint, or cast), a special shoe (orthotic device), physical therapy, or medicine. In some cases, surgery is needed. Treatment depends on:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Major trauma is any event that can cause very serious injury, such as:
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and this change does not go away.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Most minor toe, foot, or ankle injuries will heal on their own. Home treatment is usually all that's needed. But if you think that you might have a more severe injury, use first aid until you can be seen by a doctor.
Home care after breaking a toe includes applying ice, elevating the foot, and rest. Medical treatment for a broken toe depends on which toe is broken, where in the toe the break is, and the severity of the break. If you do not have diabetes or peripheral arterial disease, your toe can be "buddy-taped" to your uninjured toe next to it. Protect the skin by putting some soft padding, such as felt or foam, between your toes before you tape them together. Your injured toe may need to be buddy-taped for 2 to 4 weeks to heal. If your injured toe hurts more after buddy taping it, remove the tape.
In rare cases, other treatment may be needed, including:
Medical treatment is needed more often for a broken big toe than for the other toes. An untreated fracture may cause long-term pain, limited movement, and deformity.
Try the following tips to help relieve foot or ankle pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Remove rings, anklets, and any other jewelry that goes around your leg or ankle. It will be hard to remove the jewelry after swelling starts.
It's important to rest and protect the injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs right away to prevent or reduce swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
Compression, or wrapping the area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help reduce swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, because that can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, and swelling in the area below the bandage.
Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling. Prop up the area on pillows while you apply ice and anytime you sit or lie down.
For the first 48 hours after your injury, avoid things that might increase swelling. These things include hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and drinks that contain alcohol.
After 48 to 72 hours, if your swelling is gone, apply heat. You can start gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and keep flexibility. Some experts advise switching between heat and cold treatments.
This will help prevent infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from dirt left in the wound. The bacteria Pseudomonas are a common cause of infections when a puncture wound occurs through the sole of an athletic shoe.
If you have pain from blood under a nail, you can drain it to relieve the pain.
Walk or bear weight on your affected foot as long as it isn't painful.
Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Don't massage the injured area if it causes pain.
Ask your doctor about exercises using the MSA process (gentle exercise). MSA stands for movement, strength, and alternate activities.
Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.
If you need to use a wrap for more than 48 hours, you may have a more serious injury that needs to be checked by a doctor.
Most injuries are not caused by abuse. But bruises are often the first sign of possible abuse. Suspect physical abuse of a child or vulnerable adult when:
You may be able to prevent further injuries by reporting abuse. Seek help if:
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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