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Jammed Finger? Broken toe? The Rule of Thumb Regarding Damaged Digits

Slammed in a door. Stubbed on the corner of that old oak dresser. Squashed by a dropped bowling ball bag. There are endless ways to fracture a finger or end up with a broken toe.

Now, here’s the small print: it typically takes a significant amount of force to break a bone. That being said, toe and finger bones are smaller – and, thus, more susceptible to fractures.

It can be difficult to tell if you’ve suffered a break. Jammed fingers and stubbed toes hurt like the Dickens and can make regular mobility challenging immediately after the incident. However, in many cases, people find that their injured digits are sprained, not broken, despite the anguish.

But there are some red flags to watch out for, that may make a trip to the local urgent care a necessity.

Throbbing pain is perhaps the number one identifier. As we mentioned, most sprains are accompanied by pain – but a fracture will result in unrelenting and mounting agony.

An audible snap is also a telltale sign. And swelling typically signifies that there may be something more intense at play.

Additional signs of a fracture include:

  • Bruising or color change: A sprained finger or toe may swell, but discoloration does not commonly occur.
  • Immobility: You might not be able to apply pressure, stand, or even walk on an injured foot if a fracture is present. Likewise, broken fingers cannot typically be bent or spread apart without a significant increase in pain.
  • Dislocation: If your toe or finger appears out of alignment, it’s time to take a drive to your family doctor or local urgent care.

If any of these conditions are present, seek medical attention. Left untreated, a broken – or fractured – toe could cause issues when you walk and run.

If tingling or a loss of feeling accompanies a potential fracture, make certain to tell your physician, as it could be a sign of nerve damage.

Additionally, seek immediate medical attention if your toe or finger:

  • Is turning blue
  • Is cold to the touch (compared to the other fingers or toes)
  • Is deformed.
  • Is bleeding heavily.
  • Has been punctured by the bone.

Can Anything Be Done?

X-Rays can determine if a finger or foot bone is fractured or merely sprained.

In most cases, there is little a doctor can do for a broken finger or toe. The prescription typically involves plenty of rest and stabilizing the injured appendage/digit. However, if the break has caused your finger or toe to be out of alignment, your doctor may give you mild anesthesia and straighten it so that it heals properly.

Buddy taping – or splinting – the injured finger or toe can also keep things stable. This simply means taping the toe to an adjacent digit. In this case, broken toes should be taped to the neighbor closest to your big toe. As a general rule, avoid taping your big toe or your thumb altogether.

For finger injuries, your doctor may suggest exercises you can do at home to prevent stiffness. He or she can also instruct you on how to properly use medical tape and gauze to prevent further irritation.

In some cases, surgery is required for broken toes and fingers – particularly if the break has resulted in bone fragments.

Things You Can Do at Home

There are some common home remedies and measures you can take to increase comfort and expedite healing:

  • Ice the damaged digit immediately after the injury occurs.
  • Take over-the-counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Don’t walk barefoot and stay off of your feet as much as possible until you are healed.

Accidents happen – and as warmer weather arrives, and more and more people and children take to the outdoors for some much-needed recreation, they tend to happen more frequently. Sprains, strains, and fractures can result from accidents, and FirstCall Medical Center Can help you. There’s no need to make an appointment. Our staff is comprised of emergency medicine practitioners who will examine your injury and take X-rays, if needed, without the long wait of an emergency room. Contact us today to learn more.