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Toe pain

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger HendersonReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Toe pain is common, and there are many different causes. If you have had some sort of trauma like kicking something hard or dropping something on your toe there may be the possibility of a fracture or broken bone. If you have not had any trauma, you may have a skin problem, such as blisters or ulcers, joint problems like arthritis or gout, and many more. If you have severe pain, or pain that is not settling with some mild pain relief, then you may need to seek advice from your doctor.

Do I need an X-ray?

If you have had a nasty traumatic injury and have severe pain you may require an X-ray. Symptoms that suggest a possible fracture include being unable to stand on the injured foot or toe, if the toe seems at a different angle to normal, or if there's significant bruising and swelling around the area.

Tight or badly fitting footwear, and doing too much of one repetitive exercise, can be common causes of foot or toe pain. There are many simple causes of toe pain that don’t require anything other than treatment at home.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Resting the toe and foot, raising it up, and taking some simple pain relief such as paracetamol is a good place to start. If you've had an injury, an ice pack or bag of peas wrapped in a tea towel can also ease the pain.

Your pharmacist is an expert and can recommend further treatments such as insoles, different painkillers, or treatment for many common skin, nail and foot conditions.

When should I see my doctor?

Most causes of toe pain will improve with self-treatment. If your pain is not improving after two weeks then you should book a routine appointment with your doctor to discuss it.

You should seek more urgent medical attention if you have severe pain. If you are concerned you have suffered a fracture, or have a nasty injury to your big toe, you will likely require an X-ray.

If you have severe symptoms such as numbness, weakness, fevers, or you are diabetic and have a break in the skin, seek urgent medical advice from your doctor or 111.

What will my doctor do?

The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your medical history, any relevant family medical history and any current medications. They will examine your feet and toes, check your temperature, and potentially order other tests such as a blood test or X-ray.

If you attended a hospital, a doctor or nurse will examine you, and if they think a fracture is possible, they will order an X-ray and various other tests. If a fracture is confirmed you will be advised of the best next step. Many toe fractures can be managed by strapping one toe to the next for support and taking simple pain relief until it is healed in position. Some rare cases of severe fractures require repositioning or an operation.

Other causes of toe pain like ulcers, bunions, cuts and gout may require specific blood tests and treatments.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 13.10.2023