Photo: Nok Lek (Shutterstock)
Poking your toe isn’t just physically painful – it can hurt your ego when you grip your foot in agony like a cartoon character knowing that this is what you did to yourself. Fortunately, most of the time, this isn’t a serious injury and you will likely feel better relatively soon. But since it can be really, really painful, you should make sure stepping on the side of your couch didn’t cause any major damage. Here’s what you need to know about toe stumps and how to treat them.
Why are stubbly toes causing so much pain?
As it turns out, we do things all the time that can lead to a toe stump – other than not actually feeling it when we wear shoes Dr. Michael Trepel, a podiatrist in New York City. In fact, a stubbly toe means that “when you walk barefoot or with your toe open, you hit an object with your forefoot,” he said tells The Healthy in an interview.
So it makes sense that we would get more toe stumps at home, especially when we suddenly wake up at night and can’t really see our surroundings. The most frequently stubbed toes are the big (also “big”) toe (hallux) and the little toe (fifth digit).
But why does the pain it causes seem far more extreme than the injury itself?
G / O Media can receive a commission
“There are denser nerve endings around the toes because you need a sense of touch,” continues Trepel. “Therefore, an injury to the tip of the toe causes more pain than the heel.”
How to treat a stubbly toe
It can be very painful, but give it a few minutes and wait for the pain to subside. If this is the case and you don’t see any signs of damage to your toes, skin, nails, or nail bed, you are most likely fine and don’t need to do anything.
In the event the pain persists, Dr. Grace Torres-Hodges, a podiatrist practicing in Pensacola, Florida, uses the classic RICE method – that is, you rest, freeze, compress and lift your foot with your injured toe, and take an over-the-counter pain reliever if necessary she tells The Healthy.
Your toe can swell or bruise immediately, or it can happen during the night and the next day. It can also take a few days for your toe to turn black and blue, but the time-lapse doesn’t mean your toe is broken or something serious is wrong.
If you hit your toenail during the prick, there may be bleeding under the nail – also known as a subungual hematoma. “There are a lot of bacteria around the nails and therefore there is a risk of infection with nail bed injuries,” explains Trepel, noting that if this happens, you should take care to keep the area clean.
When to see a doctor
If your toe looks crooked or deformed in any way after the stub, you may need to see a doctor. And to see if your toe is broken or not, the doctor may order x-rays.
If your toe is broken and crooked or deformed, the doctor can give you local anesthesia and then return the toe to its original position. After that, it will either be taped onto the adjacent toe or you will be fitted out for a surgical shoe to keep your foot in place.
In cases where no bone has been broken, but the toe continues to be very painful a few days later, the doctor will likely suggest sticking with the RICE method until you recover.
If the injury resulted in a deep cut in your skin, the doctor will treat the wound, which in some cases may result in stitches. In situations where your nail or nail bed has been injured and a blood blister has formed under the nail, Says Trepel that a podiatrist should drain it to reduce the risk of complete nail loss.