How to Treat an Injured or Broken Toe by Buddy-Taping
Broken toes can be extremely painful, hurt for several weeks, and make it difficult to walk and wear shoes. Since only the big toe can be casted if it has been broken, buddy-taping can be beneficial in terms of allowing the toe to heal in a straight position. This will make walking more comfortable—and reduce swelling and pain. Follow these easy steps to buddy-tape a broken or injured toe.
How do I Know My Toe is Broken?
There are several types of injuries that may cause toe fractures:
- Stress Fracture: A toe that becomes fractured after repetitive movements or action, such as sports or an occupation.
- Trauma or Injury: Stubbing or dropping a heavy object on the toes that causes a fracture.
- Hyper-Extension: A fall or a trip that forces the weight of the body on the toes and bends them backwards.
Broken toes have discolored and bruised skin, are swollen at the fracture, are painful to the touch, and are sensitive to movement.
Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Toe
After the injury, you may experience stiffness, swollen, red or purplish bruising around the fracture of the toe. The toe may look crooked, twisted, or appear deformed from swelling. Depending on the type of injury, the toenail may have a collection of blood underneath it, and the toenail may begin to separate and fall off after a few days. Your toenail will grow back.
When to Seek Medical Care
- If you suspect the big toe is broken, you will need a cast placed by a doctor to ensure the bone heals straight and minimizes residual arthritis later on
- Pain of the toe gets worse instead of better with unrelieved pain by over-the-counter medications
- Increased swelling with dark colored skin around the affected toe and severe pain. This may indicate a blood vessel has been ruptured and continues to bleed internally
- You have an open fracture, which means you can see the bone through the skin, or there is drainage or bleeding near the affected toe
Apply Ice to the Broken Toe
Place a moist hand towel in a plastic bag and place in the freezer, or place ice cubes in water in a bowel big enough to accommodate your foot comfortably. Place ice pack or soak the affected foot in cold water about 20 minutes every hour or when necessary. Do not freeze the skin longer than 20 minutes to reduce the chance of frostbite.
Elevate the Broken Toe Above the Heart
Swelling of the broken toe increases pain by causing congestion around the injured bone and applying constant pressure. Elevate the foot on pillows, a chair, or by any means to reduce swelling and pain. You will require less pain medications, heal faster, and suffer with less soreness and tenderness on movement.
How to Buddy-Tape a Broken Toe
Identify the Broken or Injured Toe
The swollen, discolored, or deformed toe is most likely the toe that might be broken. Check if you can move it voluntarily. If you can't move it, is if from pain or is the bone broken completely. If the toe bone is no longer attached, seek help from the emergency room. If the toe is completely detached from a break in the bone, you may not be able to set it correctly, it may heal wrong, and you will eventually need surgery to re-break and re-set the toe bone.
Always tape the Broken Toe to the Next Largest Toe
Create a splint with a piece of gauze, cotton, or cloth wrapped around an ice cream stick to set the broken toe in a straight position for healing. Place the splint between the broken toe and the next largest toe.
Tape the Broken Toe and Buddy Toe Together
Wrap the broken toe and buddy toe with band-aids, surgical tape, or cloth tape. Do not use string, rubber bands, or anything else that would cut off circulation. It is very important that you secure the toes well, but observe the color and pay attention to tingling or "pins and needles" in the taped toes. If these signs and symptoms occur, loosen the tape and reapply until the circulation is unaffected but the toes are secure.
Over-the-counter pain medications should work as directed to ease the pain in your broken toe. The best defense is elevating the foot, applying ice, and resting the foot as much as possible.
Toe Buddy-Taping at a Glance
Prepare Toe for Taping
Tape Broken Toe to Next Largest Toe
Signs and Symptoms
Broken toe is discolored, deformed, swollen or painful
Trim an ice cream stick and cover with guaze or cotton into a splint
Place the splint between the broken and buddy toe
Observe the taped toes for signs and symptoms of impaired circulation
Observe for color changes in taped toes or tingling and "pins and needles"
Remove tape and re-tape with lose tape but secured toes
Elevate affected foot above the heart
Reduce pain and swelling with foot up on pillows in bed or sitting up
Use a crutch or special shoe for walking
Apply ice or ice bath for 20 mins on and 30 minutes off
Reduce pain and swelling without causing frostbite
Take over the counter pain meds as directed if needed
How to Tape a Toe and Walk with a Crutch
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.