Home > Health Library > Toe, Foot, and Ankle Injuries
Toe, foot, or ankle injuries most
commonly occur during:
In children, most toe, foot, or ankle injuries occur during
sports, play, or falls. The risk for injury is higher in sports
with jumping, such as basketball, or sports with quick direction change, such
as soccer or football. Any bone injury near a joint may injure the
growth plate (physis) in a child and needs to be
Certain athletes, such as dancers, gymnasts, or soccer
or basketball players, have an increased risk of toe, foot, or ankle
Older adults are at higher risk for injuries and
fractures because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteopenia) as they age. They also have more problems
with vision and balance, which increases their risk of
Most minor injuries will heal on their own, and home
treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms and promote
An acute injury may occur from
a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or a fall, or from twisting, jerking,
jamming, or bending a limb abnormally. Your pain may be sudden and severe.
Bruising and swelling may develop soon after your injury. Acute injuries
Overuse injuries occur when too much
stress is placed on your joint or other tissue, often by "overdoing" an
activity or repeating the same activity over and over. Overuse injuries
Treatment for your toe, foot, or ankle
injury may include first aid measures (such as the application of a brace,
splint, or cast), a special shoe (orthotic device), physical therapy,
medicine, and, in some cases, surgery. Treatment depends on:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
Symptoms of infection may
With severe bleeding, any of these may
With moderate bleeding, any of these may
With mild bleeding, any of these may be
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock in a child may include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock (most of which will be present) include:
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in children 3 years and older
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood
supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons
for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn
blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color
returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area
looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and
this change does not go away.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
You may need a tetanus shot depending
on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Major trauma is any event that can
cause very serious injury, such as:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need
Put direct, steady pressure on the
wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Most minor injuries will heal on
their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your
symptoms and promote healing. But if you suspect that you may have a more severe
injury, use first aid measures while you arrange for an evaluation by your
If a cast or splint is applied, be sure to keep it
dry, and try to move the uninjured part of your extremity as normally as
possible to help maintain muscle strength and tone. Your doctor will give you
instructions on how to
care for your cast or splint.
you have a minor injury, try home treatment measures to relieve pain, swelling,
gentle range-of-motion exercises right after your
injury while you have ice on your ankle. Perform a set of exercises by
repeating them 10 to 30 times. Do each set 3 to 5 times a day.
the following simple
Towel curls. While sitting, place a hand towel on a
smooth floor, such as wood or tile. While keeping your heel on the ground, curl
your toes and grab the towel with your toes to scrunch the towel. Let go, and
continue scrunching up the entire length of the towel. When you reach the end
of the towel, reverse the action by grabbing the towel with your toes,
scrunching it, and pushing it away from you. Repeat the exercise until you have
pushed the entire length of the towel away from you.
About 48 to 72 hours after
your injury, start exercises to stretch your
Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles on
the back of the lower leg to the bone at the base of the heel.
Towel stretch. If you can't stand, sit with your knee
straight and a towel looped around the ball of your foot. Gently and slowly
pull back on the towel for 15 to 30 seconds until you feel your calf stretch.
Repeat 2 to 4 times. In moderate to severe ankle sprains, at first it may be
too painful to pull your toes far enough to feel a stretch in your calf. Use
caution, and let pain be your guide. A little pain is normal, but you should
not feel moderate to severe pain. Do this exercise 2 or 3 times each day for
about a week. Then, make Achilles stretches part of your daily routine to
Calf stretch. If you are able to stand,
you can do this exercise by facing a wall with your hands at shoulder level on
the wall. Place your injured foot behind the other with the toes pointing
forward. Keep your heels down and your back leg straight. Slowly bend your
front knee until you feel the calf stretch in the back leg. Repeat as above.
As soon as
you can bear weight without increased pain or swelling, begin
muscle-strengthening exercises. These exercises should be held for 3 to 5
seconds. Do 15 to 20 repetitions once or twice daily for 2 to 4 weeks,
depending on the severity of your injury.
Start by sitting with
your foot flat on the floor and pushing it outward against an immovable object
such as a wall or heavy furniture. After you feel comfortable with this, try
using rubber tubing looped around the outside of your feet for resistance.
While still sitting, put your feet together flat on the floor.
Press your injured foot inward against your other foot.
place the heel of your other foot on top of the injured one. Push down with the
top heel while trying to push up with your injured foot.
Balance and control exercises
When you are able to
stand without pain, you can begin balance and control exercises. You can start
by standing in a doorway and lightly holding on to the doorjamb. When you can
do this for 60 seconds, try adding the advanced moves in the next level.
Stand on your injured foot only and
hold your arms:
Do six repetitions, holding each for 60 seconds, once a
Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows
healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more
information, see the topic
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
The following tips may prevent toe, foot,
or ankle injuries.
Injuries such as bruises, burns,
fractures, cuts, or punctures may be a sign of
abuse. Suspect possible abuse when an injury cannot be
explained or does not match the explanation, repeated injuries occur, or the
explanations for the cause of the injury change. You may be able to prevent
further abuse by reporting it and seeking help.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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