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How to heal a broken toe but keep active/running?


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I broke my fourth toe on my right foot in March. As broken toes do not require casts, I was told by a nurse to splint it myself and "buddy tape" it to the next toe and it will heal on its own. I tried to keep it elevated and iced, but when you lead an active lifestyle it is kind of hard to really rest up. I took about a week off from running but still had to go to work, walk, move, live. I resumed running and activities per usual, but it still acts up anytime I do a long run or exercise a lot during the week. Sometimes it turns purple again and I'll have to resume buddy taping or icing. What is going on? Has it really not healed after 5 months? Am I reinjuring it everytime I put weight down? I can't give up running because I occasionally get smasms in a stupid toe, but I don't want to run the risk of permanently damaging myself.

My questions: have you had a toe injury and how did you recover? Am I running the risk of more injury or should I go about business usual? What other steps should I take?

11 Replies (last)

I think you should probably see a doctor.  The reason being, that its turning purple and you are struggling with it for this long.  It could be you tore a tendon, or broke something else.  Or that the way it is broken (and rehealed it re breaks easily and might need to be fixed).

 

Like your fingers, you don't actually have muscles in your toes, they are controled only by the tendon running through them, and the muscles in your foot.  This might help you determine what the spasm is. 

seriously? please just let it heal! (it's likely not healed, if it's purple, and hurts, and you keep running on it.)

american orthopaedic surgeons on toe fractures. (their advice for you at this point would be to see your doctor, as anya said.)

Has it really not healed after 5 months? Correct.

Am I reinjuring it everytime I put weight down? Not "reinjuring," but "preventing healing."

I can't give up running because I occasionally get smasms in a stupid toe, but I don't want to run the risk of permanently damaging myself. You're well on your way, unfortunately.

What other steps should I take? Stop taking steps.  I kid.

Go to a doctor.  Get an X-ray.  It's entirely possible that your continued activity has not only prevented the bone from healing, but it may be permanently misaligned because of the repetitive activity and it wasn't set professionally.  It would have healed on its own as the nurse suggested if you'd have stayed off of it for sufficient time.

I know how discouraging it is to be forced to take time off.  I had to not only stop running but skip a half-marathon earlier this year because of my knee problems.  It sucked, and I was really not ready to accept that the one sport that I'm enjoying is being taken away from me because of my stupid body.

But I let time pass and talked to my local running shop.  I got new shoes and some training tips.  Despite having taken 3 months off from running and missing a half, I'm back in the game now.  I just did a 10-miler for my long run on Saturday, when in the past, I'd have to stop at 1½ - 2 miles because my knees would act up.

It's worth it to pause for the short term to let your body recover in order to reap long-term benefits.  Had I kept pushing myself beyond the pain, I would have risked permanent damage to my knees, ankles, and hips and rendered myself unable to ever run again (and that I can do 10 miles now while before, trying to even attempt 3 was an exercise in torture, mentally and physically; knowing that my heart & lungs could take 3 miles or more, but my knees couldn't).

It's not worth it.  Take the time off, get professional medical help, and after you let your foot heal, slowly ramp back up.  Again, it's better to take the time off now for the likelihood of being able to keep doing this rather than being rendered unable to do it ever again.

I broke 2 toes some year back, and unfortunately it took almost a year to heal properly, but believe me, you NEED to let it/them heal - running on partially healed digits is going to cause you long term problems.

Ultimatley, what is more important? Your body healing or you exercising? You have only a small window of time to heal, whereas you can get yoru fitness level sorted out in the future. truly, you can't manage without your toes/feet. Give them as long as they need to repair themselves, then you can run to your heart's content!

it would probably be a good idea to go see a doctor.. and to let it heal, even if it means you take it easy with the running for a while...

I broke a toe a few years ago - it took 3+ months for it to heal before I could run without pain...
My mother broke her big toe - and didn't get it checked out when it didn't heal properly... now it's crooked, stiff and sometimes bothers her - even though it's been 3 years since she broke it...

As everyone said, you need to stop running and give it a chance to heal.

Find something else to do, stationary bike maybe?  Or swimming?

I broke the same toe on the same foot in 2008. I did go to a podiatrist. He buddy taped it and wrapped it up real tight to reduce the swelling. At that time I was regularly exercising 45 minutes a day. I decided to buy a recumbant exercise bike to put less pressure on it and still work out. That eventually proved to be too much and I had to stop exercising all together. It still wasn't healing. 6 months later, still not healed. Suddenly (literally) it healed - about 3 weeks before I found out I was pregnant. I sincerely believe the only reason it healed is because I got pregnant, I think my body kicked healing up a notch. I strongly suggest that you force yourself on 'bedrest' aka only walking when you need to for about 4 weeks to let it heal otherwise, yes, you are risking doing more damage and the bones not healing right or not healing all together, either way, causing much bigger problems down the road.

BTW - if you smoke or are around a lot of second hand smoke a broken bone will be extremely hard to heal.

 

Good luck!

It probably would have healed perfectly well had you rested when it originally happened.

After 5 months you might need surgery to get it fixed.

What's so hard about taking a break? Keep at it and you may never have a "normal" toe again, surgery or not.

Always remember

Rest

Ice

Compression

Elevation

Thanks, everyone, for your responses. I will arrange to see a doctor, go back to icing/elevating, and take time off running until I see someone and get professional advice. This is just a ridiculous situation thanks to a tiny toe. I guess it is an example of the marvels of the human body- you don't realize how every piece adds to the complex puzzle. I'd also like to add that it doesn't turn and stay purple, like when it did when originally broken, but only appears red and inflammed when a lot of pressure is applied. And it can move, which is encouraging. I don't feel it unless I'm running distances, and then only afterwards. If I was feeling spasms as I ran or if the swelling/bruising stayed consistent, I would have stopped immediately. I suppose I just underrated any serious problems because of these extra details (mobility, normal color usually, pain after not during). Maybe it simply healed funny and is irritated by heavy striking. Regardless, I will see someone to make sure.

If your ROM is normal it may not be broken - the pain/swelling/discoloration may be due to injured tendons/ligaments in the area.

 

Either way it's best to get it checked.

I broke mine june 2011 the week my mother in law passed away. Driving 5 hr. and walking around the hospital and funeral that week had my foot swollen from the two broken toes. They were buddy taped 3rd and 4th toes  and black and blue all the way up my foot. I took care of it by staying off of it and keeping it up and all that until August when school started, being on my feet and walking all day I'd have pain and soak it when I got home. It took about 9 months for it to stop and still have a lingering pain sometimes.   NEED to rest it and get another xray and make sure it didnt' get worse. I was told sometimes and xray don't right away doesn't show everything.

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