Sprained Toe vs Broken Toe

It can be easy to take for granted how many nerves are inside our toes. But then we stub them on the coffee table or drop a lamp on them. It’s a painful reminder. If this or something similar has happened to you, you may be wondering if your toe is broken or sprained. You’re not alone.

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. They may also be caused by putting too much stress on your feet, such as when you’re playing sports, running, or ballet dancing.

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.

Some of the most commons symptoms are:

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

Broken toe symptoms

How to Tell If Your Toe is Broken

Broken Toe Symptoms

If your toe is broken, you’ll see the following changes:

  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • 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 to walk

It’s also possible to hear a cracking sound when your bone breaks. If you think you heard that, it wasn’t your imagination. You possibly have a bone fracture.

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 are committed to restoring your health and providing the best treatment possible for your injury. If you suffered trauma to a toe, or one of them has been hurting for a couple of days without signs of improvement, it’s time to seek medical attention. If you need medical care for a toe injury, contact us today.

Contact us to schedule an appointment and let’s get you back to doing the things you love.