Sprained Toe vs Broken Toe

Do you know how many nerve endings are in your toes? Chances are, you don’t think much about them until you stub one on a coffee table or drop a heavy item on it. It’s a painful reminder; one that makes you wonder how it’s possible for such a minor injury to cause such agony.

Because the pain from a toe injury can be so intense, sometimes it’s hard to know whether you sprained your toe or if you’ve actually fractured it.

Below is a comparison of symptoms between a sprained toe and a broken toe, to help differentiate one from the other. Please note that such an overview is for informational purposes only and that you should always seek medical attention when you’ve experienced a serious injury.

Sprained Toe vs. Broken Toe: What’s the Difference?

When a person stubs a toe, they may suffer an injury to the tendons around their toe bones. If the injury is minor, icing it, rest, and over-the-counter painkillers may make you feel better. However, sometimes, the injuries are more severe and require medical attention.

Broken Toe Symptoms vs Sprained Toe Symptoms

Let’s compare the symptoms of broken and sprained toes and go over how to tell the difference between them so you can get the right treatment.

If you haven’t seen a doctor yet, examine the symptoms below to determine if your toe may be broken or sprained. You’ll find the different symptoms in bold.

How to Tell If Your Toe is Sprained

Sprained Toe Symptoms

Sprained toes may happen by a lot more than stubbing it on furniture or a wall corner. Sprained toes can happen both by a specific injury or by repeated stress, such as:

  • Running
  • Sports that require frequent jumping
  • Certain types of competitive dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Putting too much stress on your feet
  • Ballet dancing

Some of the most commons symptoms are:

  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Pain while moving your toe
  • Painful mobility
  • Throbbing

Can You Move a Sprained Toe?

Generally speaking, yes, a person could move a sprained toe. However, said movement may cause additional pain.

If there’s a tear in a ligament, mobility may be limited. The ligaments may have slight bruising, yet remain functional; or it may have a tear, which will affect the mobility of your toe and its ability to put weight on it.

Broken toe symptoms

How to Tell If Your Toe is Broken

Broken Toe Symptoms

With a broken toe a person will experience the same discomforts as with a sprained toe:

  • Tenderness
  • Throbbing
  • Bruising
  • Swelling

If your toe is broken, you’ll also notice the following :

  • Significant swelling in the toe
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased mobility
  • Burning or tingling
  • Bleeding
  • Numbness
  • Pain that hasn’t gone away after a couple of days
  • Inability to move your toe, or a limited range of motion
  • It hurts to put weight on your hurt foot or pain when walking
  • A cracking sound at the time of injury
  • Toe changes color to bluish-purple

It’s important to note that just as with sprained toes, a fracture can occur in the absence of trauma. Stress fractures could occur as a result of a repetitive movement, regularly carrying heavy loads, a vitamin D deficiency, poor nutrition, or osteoporosis.

How to Tell The Difference Between a Fracture And a Sprain

The critical difference between a broken and sprained toe is in the mobility of the toe. A broken toe will have little to no movement. On the other hand, a sprained toe will still have some mobility, although it may be painful. If you’re unable to move your toe, it may be broken.

Broken Toe Hairline Fractures

That said, not all broken toes are the result of trauma. Sometimes, repetitive motion and stress to your toes may cause what’s called a stress fracture, also known as a hairline fracture.

Stress fractures can occur as a result of over extended periods of time of doing repetitive motions, such as long distance running or doing gymnastics. This type of injury is especially common in sports. Wearing the right shoes usually offers additional support to keep your feet safe.

Be aware that it may also be the result of carrying heavy loads for extended periods of time or by not eating foods with enough Vitamin D or Calcium. If you are working with heavy objects, closed-toed shoes are essential in protecting your feet.

Symptoms of Hairline Toe Fractures

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Swelling (but no bruising)
  • Pain when doing the repetitive activity
  • The pain subsides when resting

Foot Pain Relief

Sprained Toe vs Broken ToeIf you are experiencing pain in your toes from an injury, the following tips can offer relief and lend support.
Rest: Avoid exercise and movement to keep from further discomfort.

Elevate: Keep your foot elevated to reduce swelling.

Ice: Applying ice every 10-20 minutes will help with inflammation.

What Happens When a Dislocated Toe Is Left Untreated?

Even if you didn’t break a toe, you may have dislocated it. Left untreated, you may end up with painful bone spurs or a hammertoe.

What Happens When a Broken Toe Is Left Untreated?

When a person breaks their toe, there’s an actual crack in their bone. When left untreated, you may end up with a deformed toe, chronic pain, or post-traumatic arthritis.

Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today

At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to a sprained or broken toe, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.

Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.

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