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How do I Treat a Dislocated Toe?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The treatment for a dislocated toe is usually reduction, which involves realigning the dislocated bones. In addition, having the patient rest, keeping the foot elevated, applying ice, and offering pain medication may help the patient stay comfortable before and after reduction. It is usually best to have a doctor perform a reduction, but it may be necessary to perform one without a doctor’s help if the patient is in a remote location. When attempts at reduction are unsuccessful, surgery may be required.

Initially, the first step in dealing with a dislocated toe may be making the patient comfortable and helping him stay calm and relaxed. This may be accomplished by having the patient rest with the injured foot elevated. An ice pack may be helpful for dealing with swelling and pain. Likewise, an over-the-counter pain reliever may help relieve the patient’s discomfort. At this point, it is advisable to seek medical care for a dislocated toe.

While it is possible to treat the toe at home, it is typically best to have a doctor handle it. Attempting to reduce a dislocation in the big toe at home could lead to further injury, especially if there are fractures involved. As such, at-home reduction attempts may be best saved for treatment in remote locations or when medical help is unavailable.

If you must attempt to treat a dislocated toe on your own, start out by facing the patient and holding the affected toe with both of your hands. The toe should be held so that it is slightly flexed, which can be accomplished by holding it with one hand at the tip of the toe and the other at its base. With your hands in this position, you may then pull the toe toward you in a lengthening, straightening line to position the bones properly. At the same time, you will need to use your other hand to push the patient's dislocated joint back into its proper place. Once the joint is in its proper place, a splint may be used to keep the toe immobile until the patient can see a doctor.

Forcing the relocation of a toe can cause further injury. If the patient's pain increases, you may do well to stop and keep the toe immobile until medical help is available. Likewise, you should usually stop reduction attempts if you encounter resistance when you are manipulating the toe.

In some cases, reduction attempts are unsuccessful or a toe is too badly injured for a manual reduction attempt. In such a case, surgery may be required to realign the toe. Surgeons typically use pins to hold the toe in place and to help it heal properly.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon957542 — On Jun 21, 2014

It feels like my big toe on my right foot could be dislocated or sprained. There was not a traumatic moment where I knew I did something to it. It could be that a certain pair of shoes don't fit me as good as my other shoes and this causes me to walk a little differently. I've also been wearing flip flops a lot lately.

The pain came on suddenly within the last 24 to 48 hours and I noticed some slight pain on the outside of my big toe with a slight bump. I continued to walk on it during the day and didn't really ice it until one time tonight. The pain has increased10-fold since I first noticed the discomfort yesterday. My wife thinks the toe looks slightly crooked compared to my other big toe, but nothing extreme. There is some swelling and redness on my toe with a noticeable bump and even some tenderness on my actual foot. It now feels like shooting pain and I can barely walk.

I can still move my toe and slightly bend it. But it hurts to try to lift it or put pressure on it. I try to avoid going to the doc at all costs. Do you have any ideas what this is or what I can do? I haven't taken Tylenol or anything for pain yet, but I am going to start R.I.C.E. the next few days since it’s the weekend and I don't need to work. FYI: I have a desk job and I'm not extremely active, so this is confusing to me. I'm not overweight or obese either. Any advice is much appreciated!

By RationallyMellow — On Jan 18, 2014

If you decide to perform a reduction at home, be prepared for it to hurt! A dislocated toe seems like a small, insignificant injury, until you actually experience it. If you have dislocated toe symptoms, and can visit the doctor to have the toe treated, you may experience less pain.

In addition, the doctor can evaluate you to be sure that you have a dislocated toe instead of a broken toe, and can provide you with necessary pain medication to help keep you comfortable while your foot heals.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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