Sprained Toes and Turf Toe Treatment in Dallas
Turf Toe, Metatarsophalangeal Joint Sprain
Our feet are an incredibly important part of our day, as they carry us from one place to another. Additionally, our toes are responsible for helping our balance and posture, as well as aiding the feet in supporting our body weight. They also help to propel us forward during the walking cycle. In other words, those little phalanges are important to take care of. If you’ve ever stubbed your toe, you’re probably aware of how much it hurts. But what if you sprain your toe? Is there treatment available for that? We cover all this and more in the sections below.
At SPORT Orthopedics and Physical Therapy, we excel at offering medical attention to athletes, hobbyists, and others with soft tissue injuries. For a full range of treatment options, we encourage you to speak with a Dallas physical therapist or sports orthopedic doctor. Our foot and ankle surgeons will evaluate your injury and recommend the best treatment plan to get you back on your feet. To schedule an appointment, please call 469-200-2832 or fill out our online intake form.
What Is the Metatarsophalangeal Joint?
The metatarsophalangeal joint is the joining of the metatarsal bones and the phalanges, or toe bones. To put it simply, these joints connect the foot bones to the toe bones. A thin joint capsule surrounds these joints and supports them with ligaments.
Additionally, the first MTP joint is the big toe joint, while the fifth MTP joint is the little toe joint. The big toe connects to two bones underneath the big toe, called sesamoid bones. These bones are located on the bottom, or plantar surface of the foot. The plantar surface of the foot is also where we usually see plantar fasciitis.
What Is a Sprained Toe?
Sprains are injuries to the ligaments in the body, which are the soft tissues that connect the bones together within the joints. If you have sprained toes, this means that you have stretched or torn one of the ligaments in your toes. Sprained toes are very different from broken toes, as a break involves an injury to the bone rather than the ligament.
Each of the toes in your feet, aside from the big toe, has three distinct joints:
- Metatarsophalangeal joint: where the toe meets the foot
- Proximal interphalangeal joint: the middle joint of the toe
- Distal phalangeal joint: the joint closes to the tip of the toe
The big toe only contains two of these joints, the MTP joint and the interphalangeal joint. It’s important to note that you can sprain any of the above joints.
What Is Turf Toe?
Turf toe injuries are those which occur to the MTP joint in your big toe. This type of toe sprain often occurs when people push off the ground to start sprinting or running. Turf toe got its name due to this injury increasing in frequency after football players started playing on artificial turf rather than natural grass. Turf makes the injury more common because, when compared to grass, turf is slightly harder and less shock-absorbent. While it tends to be more common in professional athletes who often play on turf, it can still occur during a wide variety of physical activities.
What Is the Difference Between a Fractured and a Sprained Toe?
The main difference between a sprained toe and a broken toe is its mobility. Broken toes generally have very little to no mobility while a toe sprain will be more mobile, albeit painful. If you cannot move your toe at all, there’s a pretty good chance it’s broken.
Broken Toe Hairline Fractures
It’s important to note that not every broken toe results from significant or sudden trauma. Sometimes, repetitive motions or stress over time cause what we call a stress fracture. This is another name for a hairline fracture.
These stress fractures often result from long periods of repetitive motion, such as gymnastics or running. In fact, this specific type of injury is very common in sports. In most cases, if you wear shoes that provide adequate support, this alone will prevent turf toe injuries, broken bones, and other soft tissue injuries.
Hairline fractures can also result from a lack of Vitamin D and Calcium, or from carrying heavy objects for long periods of time. If you work in an environment where there are a lot of heavy objects, it’s important to wear close-toed shoes to protect your feet.
Causes of Sprained Toes
A sprained toe or a turf toe injury often occurs as a result of trauma or hyperextension of the toe. Examples of trauma include hitting your toe against a hard surface, like a couch or table. Hyperextension happens when you extend a joint beyond its natural range of motion. This happens sometimes when the toe catches on something while you try to keep moving forward.
While it’s true that anyone can sprain their toe, some individuals are at a higher risk. Specifically, athletes such as football players are more likely to have an injured toe than others. One of the best ways to prevent an injured foot is to ensure that your shoes support your foot and fit properly.
How to Diagnose a Sprained Toe
In order to achieve a diagnosis, your foot doctor will likely begin by asking which movements make the toe pain hurt worse. They will also ask about how and when the injury occurred. With this information, they can determine whether it is a minor injury or something more serious.
Then, your doctor will likely attempt to move your toe and examine its range of motion. This gives them an even better idea of how severe the sprain is, as well as if there is any significant joint instability. Based on this information, they may or may not order imaging tests for further confirmation. An X-ray of the foot usually helps to rule out a broken bone, while an MRI will show the extent of the damage to your toe.
As with other injuries, such as ACL sprains, MCL sprains, and sprained knees, we usually classify sprains into three categories. These categories differ depending on the severity of the injury. The three grades of injuries include:
- Grade 1: This is a mild sprain with only minor tearing at most. These minor tears are called microtears.
- Grade 2: The ligament has a partial tear, and there is only minor joint instability.
- Grade 3: The ligament is either severely or completely torn. There is also significant joint instability.
How Is a Sprained Toe Treated?
A Grade 1 sprained toe often requires little to no treatment. When treatment is recommended, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about buddy taping. This is a process in which you tape the injured toe to the toe directly next to it. It helps to both provide stability to the toes and to protect the toe in order for it to heal properly.
Tape usually works very well for Grade 1 mild sprains. However, Grade 2 and Grade 3 sprains often require a walking boot. This walking boot offers even more stability and protection than taping. Remember to consult with your Dallas foot doctor to ensure that you’re doing all you can to both promote healing and prevent further injury.
Some simple steps you can take to reduce pain and swelling include:
- Rest the injured joint as much as you can.
- Use a cold compress on the sprained toe for around 15 to 20 minutes. Do this multiple times a day for several days after the injury occurs.
- Keep your foot elevated while sitting or lying down.
- Take NSAID pain relievers to reduce swelling and improve pain.
- Wear shoes that have either a stiff sole or decent padding in the front. These will help protect your toes and keep them from making your injury worse.
Broken Toe Symptoms vs Sprained Toe Symptoms
When you experience an injury to the foot or toes, it’s important to understand the difference between the main symptoms of a fracture vs a sprain. Below, we outline the specific symptoms of both types of foot injuries.
- Throbbing pain
- Hearing the bone break at the time of the injury
- Swelling at the site of the break
- Severe pain
- Bruised or discoloration of the skin
- Pain while walking or even standing
- The toe sits at an unnatural angle
- Mild swelling
- There may be some bruising, but it will be less noticeable
- Pain should improve after a few days
How Long Does It Take a Sprained Toe to Heal?
In order to heal completely, you should allow your turf toe or toe sprain a few weeks to heal. More specifically, it could take anywhere from three weeks to six weeks. It’s important to note, however, that more severe injuries usually take longer to completely heal. Tape your entire toe for at least four weeks, and speak with your healthcare provider about other options.
While you focus on recovery, remember to avoid playing sports or engaging in other activities. Once you stop feeling pain and reduce swelling in the toe, you can usually return to the same level of activity you had before the injury. In rare cases, some people still feel pain after two months of recovery. If this happens to you, seek medical attention immediately, as this might be an indicator of a different injury.
Should I Go to the Doctor for a Sprained Toe?
Certain foot injuries are more obviously serious than others. After you suffer a turf toe injury, it’s important to understand when you should seek help from a doctor. If the swelling and pain have not gone down after around a week, it’s probably time to seek medical help. More severe indications include tingling, numbness, or a burning sensation. These symptoms might signal nerve damage or toe deformation. As soon as you experience any of these symptoms, we recommend speaking with your foot doctor.
How Long Does It Take for an MTP Joint to Heal?
After you have turf toe diagnosed, your doctor will likely recommend that you tape the toe for at least four weeks. Depending on how severe your turf toe is, your recovery time could range anywhere from four weeks to one year.
Can You Walk on a Sprained Big Toe?
Technically, yes. However, this is likely to be quite painful. With the help of taping, shoe inserts, and the proper footwear, you can reduce your recovery time significantly. Speak with your doctor about how you can improve your recovery and ensure that your toes remain functional.
Call SPORT Orthopedics and Physical Therapy Today
At SPORT Orthopedics and Physical Therapy, we pride ourselves on offering a wide variety of treatment options for a wide variety of conditions. When patients come to us in pain, our number one priority becomes pain management. If you need advice on how to manage injuries of the soft tissues, a sprained ankle, or other conditions, we’re here for you. To schedule your appointment, call us today at 469-200-2832 or fill out our online intake form.