You know your limits. When you eat more sugar than your body can handle, you become hyperactive. When you breathe too quickly and deeply, you can hyperventilate. When your joints are bent too far, something has to give, and the ligaments are often hyperextended. This can happen anywhere in your body, such as a shoulder separation, a knee injury, or an ankle sprain. It also happens with turf toe, which is a sprain of the big toe joint.
Don’t Tippy-toe Around – Get Help
A big toe sprain often happens during athletic activity, but not always. All it requires is that your toe is stuck flat on the ground or floor while the rest of your foot and leg bend too far forward. This forces the toe to bend back too far toward your shin. Your metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP)—where your big toe attaches to your foot—is stressed, and its ligaments become stretched or torn. Like all damaged tissue, they can swell and become inflamed.
Depending on which actual tissues are strained and how badly, you can have localized pain under the joint; general pain, swelling and bruising of the entire joint; or severe symptoms that make it too painful to move your toe or walk. If you have injured your toe, don’t wait. Let us evaluate the severity and find the best treatment for you.
Start with RICE, and We’ll Take it from There
Rest – Stop the activity that caused your injury, and keep your weight off until it has been evaluated.
Ice – Cover a flexible ice pack with a thin towel and wrap it around your joint. Keep in place for 15-20 minutes at a time, and repeat several times a day.
Compression – Use a crepe bandage to wrap your forefoot and keep swelling down.
Elevation – Don’t forget this important step. When sitting or lying down, try to keep your foot above heart level so fluid and blood doesn’t pool and cause swelling and pain.
When you come in, we will ask how your injury happened and do a physical exam, including moving the toe around to see where the damage and pain is located. We may also use X-rays to see if any of the hard structures (bones) are broken, or MRIs to check for soft tissue abnormalities. This will help us determine what treatment is required.
Turf Toe Treatments
If the sprain is a mild one, continuing the RICE therapy, and possibly taping the big toe to the second toe to decrease its movement, may be all that is needed. We may prescribe a NSAID medication, shoes with stiff soles, or inserts to stabilize the foot and lessen the strain on the joint. With proper treatment, you may be able to play with the injury after a couple of days.
Moderate sprains may benefit from the use of a walking boot for a week or so, before using the same treatments as those for a mild sprain. You will probably have to stop playing for several days to two weeks while the joint heals.
Serious sprains may need several weeks of immobilization in a walking boot or cast that keeps the toe pointed down slightly. This will be followed by the treatments for moderate and mild sprains as your joint gets better. We may also prescribe physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the big toe and prevent stiffness in the joint.
Very severe cases may be referred to a surgeon, but this injury usually heals adequately without surgery. Having turf toe makes your more susceptible to future pain, stiffness, or bunions, but with proper healing and therapy, you should be able to prevent serious, chronic problems with your toe.
You don’t want to hyperextend your pain along with your toe. Call Chiropodist Tony Abbott at Abbott Foot and Ankle Clinic as soon after an injury as possible, and stop pain in its tracks. We specialize in sports injuries and will help you get back on track safely. Call our Collingwood, ON office at (705) 444-9929 or request an appointment under the contact us tab on our website.