Sprained toe, symptoms, causes and treatment

A sprained toe is a ligament injury that happens due to many reasons. A ligament connects with bones in joints, and sprained toe can affect any age of people. Our toes contain joints through which we can walk, run, or jump as well as perform other activities. Bands of tissues are called ligaments that surround the toe joint.

Sprained and broken toe is different, in broken your bone injury of toe happen, but in sprained, your ligament is torn or stretched. Damaging of these ligaments is known as a sprain.

Each toe has three joints, except the big one. The following three joints are present in the toes.

  • Metatarsophalangeal Joint: when your toe meets with your foot
  • Proximal Interphalangeal: in which joint is in the middle of your toe.
  • Distal Phalangeal: In this joint, foot is closed to toe’s tip.

Meanwhile, our big toe has only two joints, which are metatarsophalangeal and interphalangeal joints. Now let’s talk about the symptoms, causes, and what to do for a sprained toe.

Sprained toe symptoms

The symptoms depend on the severity of your case because any joint can be affected in the sprained toe as we have told you that except our big one, each toe has three joints. In sprained toe, following symptoms appear such as

  • Difficulty in moving or walking
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Joint Instability
  • Throbbing
  • Tenderness

These are the symptoms that we feel in the sprained toe as well as in broken toe. However, the pain depends on the severity of the sprain. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons categorized it into three grades.

Grade 1-Mild Sprain: In this condition, stretching of the ligament happens, and you feel swelling and tenderness.

Grade 2 – Moderate Sprain: In a moderate sprain, the partial tearing of ligament is included. You feel tenderness and swelling.

Grade 3 – Severe Sprain: It is the most severe case in which toe’s ligament completely injured. In this person, feel pain, tenderness swelling in the toe.

Sprained toe causes

The causes of the sprained toe are the result of trauma or Hyperextension of the toe. In the traumatic causes hitting the toe on some object while walking or running. Meanwhile, Hyperextension defines to extend the joints in toe beyond their natural range of motion.

Turf Toe

Here is another reason for sprained toe Turf toe when the first Joint of big toe injured. This joint is called metatarsophalangeal, which connects the toe with the foot.

It mostly happens when a person bends their toes too far upward and pressure of pushing off as well as due to Hyperextension. This sprain injury we get mostly in sports while playing football.

Sprains Vs. Fractures

Toe fractures are also the causes of a sprained toe, and you experience the symptoms of a sprained toe. It happens when a heavy object drops in the toes and fracture occur, but if ligament does not affect, then it is sprained otherwise called broken toe.

So overall sprained toe causes are to hit the hard object like with wall or furniture. But it isn’t easy to diagnose sometimes X-ray is recommended to know the reason.

Sprained Toe Treatment

Most of the time, the sprained toe gets better with proper care at home. You will be familiar with a remedy that is used for many injuries, and here we can say it is a sprained toe remedy called RICE. So, it is the most important question that ever asks what to do for the sprained toe. RICE is the proper treatment, and we describe it in four terms Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Rest: Don’t do any activity that causes sprain like playing sports, walking, or running.

Ice: Ice packs should be sued to reduce the swelling and pain in the toe.

Compression: Cover the sprained toe with medical tape to buddy wrap the toes together. But it should be loose so that you will able to get extra support and stability.

Elevation: For sprained toe healing, the elevation is also the remedy in which you keep Elevate the foot off from the floor, and it reduces swelling and pain.

Besides sprained toe home remedies, some pain relievers are used, called Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen. These drugs relieve pain and reduce swelling and inflammation. Besides all, severely sprained toe takes more time to heal in which the doctor recommends walling boot that protects the toe. Moreover, some use Crutches that keep the person weight of the foot.

How much time takes sprained toe?

The sprained toe healing time can be varied because it depends on the type of injury. Usually, it takes about three to six weeks for a full recovery. However, sprained toe recovery time could be increased if it is more severe in which big toe ligament also affected. Follow all the proper guidelines of the doctor and avoid any sports or other strenuous activity at that time. The maximum sprained tie healing time is two months, and if still pain exists, then consult with your doctor.

Preventive Measures

We are humans and not possible to prevent every accident and sprain, but we can do proper foot care and precautions that lowers the chances of a sprained toe. Some preventive measures should be followed. Wore the fitted footwear for sports and physical activity that provide extra stability and shock absorption.

Avoid going outside without shoes because it is more vulnerable to injury.  Stretching before and after the physical activity should be gentle stretching of muscles of legs, feet, and toes. Please don’t ignore the symptoms because it can become worse when you delay.


As we have discussed, all these issues of the sprained toe, so never ignore the symptoms because healing after a long time can cause more issues. This pain could be frustrating and painful. If you consult with the doctor, then it takes just a few weeks, and no future complications occur. Therefore, it is important to follow the doctor’s treatment recommendations, and if it is a minor pain, then you can use the home remedy that called RICE.


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