A dislocated toe may not seem like much in comparison to a fractured or broken toe, but the pain is often uncomfortable. Walking around on a dislocated toe can worsen the pain. You can experience a dislocated toe as a result of trauma while running or even walking. Toe dislocations involve a sprain to the ligaments of the toe, which displaces the phalanges bones.

Causes of a Dislocation

Although you can dislocate any toe, a dislocated big toe is most common. Some activities can cause a dislocation. Causes may include:


  • Walking or running on uneven surfaces
  • Slips and falls
  • Trauma caused by impact during athletic activities

Although anyone can experience a toe dislocation, athletes face a greater risk. Sports such as rugby, football, hockey, and soccer can all result in a dislocation. Athletes commonly experience a condition called turf toe, which is a condition caused by playing on rough surfaces. The rough surfaces exert strain on your toe, which can lead to a dislocated toe.

You will notice that the pain in your toe increases when running, changing directions, or stopping suddenly. The functions of your toe will decrease if the dislocation goes untreated. Although dislocations to the big toe are more common, the smaller toes face a higher risk of severe injury.

Symptoms of a Dislocation

Some of the symptoms of toe dislocation may mimic the symptoms of a sprained, fractured, or broken toe. Symptoms typically include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Deformities (toe is visibly out of place)
  • Bone misalignment
  • Paralysis or numbness of the toe (caused by pinched blood vessels)
  • Abnormal movement
  • Noticeable trauma to the toenail of the affected toe

If you notice any of the signs and symptoms of a dislocation, address it with your physician immediately. Care and treatment options for a toe dislocation are relatively simple as long as you address the problem immediately.

If you fail to address your dislocation right away, it could lead to further injury, which can result in severe pain and other issues. For instance, if the dislocation pinches any blood vessels, it may cause circulation problems, which can damage the tissues in your toe.

Treatment Options

When trying to figure out how to fix a dislocated toe, you have several treatment options. Treatment options include medical treatments, home treatments, and exercise.

Medical  Treatment

You should seek medical treatment for your dislocated toe immediately. A doctor can set the toe back in the correct position within six hours of the dislocation. After six hours, the elasticity of the tissues in your toe begins to fade, making it difficult to set the toe properly.

The doctor may order an X-ray and an MRI to make sure there is no other damage to your toe. Once the doctor determines the position of the toe, he or she will attempt to straighten it, provide pain medication, and offer special protective footwear to prevent further injury.

Your doctor may also recommend certain exercises for your toe. Exercises are especially useful if the doctor is unable to straighten your toe. The exercises will help work the toe back into proper position.

You should seek medical treatment for your dislocated toe immediately. A doctor can set the toe back in the correct position within six hours of the dislocation. After six hours, the elasticity of the tissues in your toe begins to fade, making it difficult to set the toe properly.

The doctor may order an X-ray and an MRI to make sure there is no other damage to your toe. Once the doctor determines the position of the toe, he or she will attempt to straighten it, provide pain medication, and offer special protective footwear to prevent further injury.

Your doctor may also recommend certain exercises for your toe. Exercises are especially useful if the doctor is unable to straighten your toe. The exercises will help work the toe back into proper position.

Exercises for Dislocated Toe

Exercises for a dislocated toe include:

  • Vertical toe raises – Use your hands to support your body and start positioning your weight onto the injured foot. Raise the toe away from the ground and hold the position. Slowly lower your toe back to its original position. Perform 10-12 repetitions of this exercise roughly twice a day.
  • Vertical toe presses – Again, support your body using your hands and curl your toe in a downward position so that it is pointed to the ground. Hold the position of your toe for 10 seconds before returning it to its original position. Perform 10-12 repetitions approximately twice a day.
  • Horizontal toe presses – Press your foot against the wall using the tips of your toes. Level your toes against the wall slowly to apply pressure. Hold your position for a few seconds before returning to a normal position. Repeat the process 10-12 times at least twice a day.

If the exercises do not adjust your toe back to the proper position, you will have to visit your doctor for further medical treatment.

Home Treatments

You can perform treatments at home for your dislocated toe. Make sure you use the RICE method, which includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You will notice swelling of the dislocated toe. The RICE method helps reduce swelling and inflammation, which also reduces pain.

Make sure you also have an anti-inflammatory on hand, such as ibuprofen. You can take ibuprofen once every 6-8 hours as needed for pain and swelling. Let your doctor know if you are taking an anti-inflammatory so they do not conflict with any prescription anti-inflammatories your doctor may prescribe.

Dislocation Prevention

Dislocation prevention is something your doctor will likely discuss with you. Dislocation prevention includes wearing proper sporting gear to protect your toes. Make sure you wear adequate shoes related to your line of athletic activity. For instance, if you are a soccer player, make sure you wear shoes with proper support and cleats to prevent injury.

Make sure you also stretch your feet and toes before participating in any physical activities. Stretching the toes allows you to warm up the tissues and ligaments, which reduces injury. If you are in need of recommendations for exercise and stretching, talk to your physician.

After Care

After your doctor places your toe back in the correct position, you will need to take it easy. Once a dislocation takes place, your toe may easily dislocate once again. Make sure you give your foot plenty of rest, so you have adequate time to heal.

Avoid putting any weight on your foot until your doctor gives you the all clear. If need be, tape your toes together to give them more support. You could also ask your doctor for a splint to provide your toe with support and security.

When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention

In most cases, you do not need emergency medical attention for a dislocated toe. However, there are instances in which emergency medical attention may be necessary. Make sure you seek emergency help if the pain and swelling in your foot worsen or if the toe does not get better as expected by your physician.

You should also seek emergency attention if you begin experiencing numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected toe. If you suffer severe pain or the toe appears cold, pale, or discolored, you should contact a medical professional immediately. Cold, pale toes may indicate a circulation issue caused by pinched blood vessels.

Dislocation Surgery

In rare instances, your doctor may need to perform surgery on your dislocated toe. Doctors will typically perform surgery if the dislocation results in a crossover. A crossover occurs when the toe becomes buckled or crooked to the point that it crosses over an adjoining toe. Crossover dislocation injuries most commonly occur when the second toe crosses the big toe.

Surgery will properly align the toe back in place, which may require shortening or restructure of the bones in the toe or foot. Make sure you rest your foot after surgery. Your surgeon will likely recommend supportive footwear to promote healing and reduce the likelihood of another crossover dislocation injury.

Keep in mind that the surgeon may opt to install hardware in your toe during surgery to help hold the toe in place. Hardware may include screws and wire. Of course, your surgeon will only use this hardware if the dislocation is severe enough to require it.

Dislocation surgery is not a common occurrence, nor is the use of hardware. However, athletes are at risk of severe dislocation injuries. Therefore, athletes are among those who are likely to experience a dislocation surgery.

Surgery Risks

As with any surgery, there are risks that may arise from dislocation surgery. Although the surgery itself is relatively safe, you can experience pain or infection at the surgery site. You may also experience poor healing depending on the state of your health.

Unsightly scars, weakness in the toe, recurrence, and further deformities are also a risk. Of course, the benefits of the surgery outweigh the risks. If you have any concerns regarding toe dislocation surgery, talk to your doctor.

Your doctor can determine if your toe requires surgery or if it is an issue that he or she can resolve using non-surgical methods mentioned above. The majority of doctors will attempt non-surgical methods of treatment before opting to perform surgery.

Doctors will only consider surgery when non-surgical methods fail to work or when the dislocation is so extensive that surgical repair is a requirement. Keep in mind that your doctor will perform imaging tests on your toe to determine with a sense of accuracy the severity of your injury.

No matter if your doctor uses non-surgical or surgical methods of treatment, you should make sure you perform the recommended home treatments. In many cases, a dislocated toe will heal within a matter of a couple of weeks, allowing you to return to normal activity.

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