How to treat a sore toe

Updated April 17, 2017

A sore toe can be caused by anything from infection to injury. In most cases, sore toes can be treated at home and clear up within a few days. Sometimes, however, a sore toe requires a trip to the doctor for medical evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. If your sore toe does not respond to home treatments or if your pain intensifies, you should consult a doctor promptly.

Clean the affected toe if a wound is present, apply a triple antibiotic ointment, and then cover with a sterile bandage. Deep cuts may require sutures and should be evaluated by a medical professional. Any wound that does not heal within a few days, and even minor wounds on a diabetic person, require medical attention and treatment.

Look for any trapped particles or debris inside the toe. If you injured your toe on glass, concrete or wood, you may have particles trapped beneath the skin that require removal to prevent infection. If you injured your toe on metal, you should call your doctor to determine if a tetanus shot is necessary.

Elevate the toe to reduce swelling, stop bleeding and encourage healing. You can prop your toe up on pillows while sleeping or watching television.

Avoid walking on the toe, especially if doing so causes significant pain. Do not wear a shoe if it places pressure on your injury, but try to keep your foot covered when outdoors to prevent additional damage.

Watch for signs of infection in your toe, such as redness, increased swelling, pus or fever. If any of these symptoms develop, call your doctor immediately to prevent cellulitis or other complications.

Apply ice to the affected toe to alleviate pain and reduce swelling. Avoid placing ice directly on your toe. Wrap the ice in a towel, or use a commercial ice pack. Gently place the wrapped ice or the ice pack on your toe for 20 to 30 minutes, every couple of hours.

Visit your doctor for X-rays or other tests if you believe your toe may be broken or sprained. You may need the bone set, and your doctor may place your foot in a cast or provide you with crutches to keep your weight off the toe until it heals.

Take over-the-counter pain relievers if your toe is painful. If over-the-counter medications are not strong enough to control your pain, your injury is probably serious enough to warrant medical attention.

Report your sore toe to your doctor if you have any underlying health conditions that may complicate treatment or increase your risk of complications. Diabetes, immune-system dysfunction, circulatory problems and certain bone diseases may increase your risk of infection and serious complications.

Things You'll Need

  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Sterile bandages
  • Ice packs
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
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