Toes – ridiculous digits


I watched a documentary the other day where an Indian mystic was rubbing a magic mixture of herbs on a broken leg. Have faith, the bone will mend. And it will. However, it will take many months of pain and incapacity and the owner of the fracture will be left with a deformity.

Let me assure you that mystics do not cure fractured anythings. But I must admit they have better PR agents than conventional medico’s. We should do something about that!

Friend of mine fractured some bones in his foot the other day, which made me think about fractured toes. Have you ever broken a toe? Any toe. If you have, you will remember it as broken toes are damn painful. In fact, the pain is much greater than many other fractures, such as a nose, or even a wrist, despite the ridiculously small digits like toes.

Having been born inherently clumsy, I have fractured several toes, with most occurring by walking into table legs or other immovable pieces of furniture. After the initial mutterings of hopping one-legged around the bedroom going “Ow! Ow!” I expected the buzzing throb to quietly go away. It didn’t, but what did come was the slow appreciation that I had done a little more than just a stubbed toe. The toe began to swell and took on a beautiful purple hue, which is almost 100 percent indicative of a fracture. X-Rays really only confirm the clinical diagnosis.

Now I was actually quite lucky. If you must have a fractured toe as a pastime, do not pick the big toe for this. It really is the only important toe, as it is the one that keeps your balance. No joke. When you are standing, there are all sorts of little receptors in your head that tell your brain whether you are stable, or in danger of falling forwards or backwards. These receptors then relay messages to your big toe, to increase or decrease pressure to keep you upright – and you thought the only reason for your big toe was to move family pets out of the way! (This is the same way that Segways work!)

I was lucky in the fact that my Xmas fracture was of the middle toe. After the importance given to the big toe, all the others are only there to fill up the space in your shoes. And no, I’m not joking. Just have a look at your other toes. What a twisted, misshapen bunch of digits they all are. What earthly other use is there for them? About as useful as a box of matches in a typhoon.

So what is the treatment for fractured toes? Let me assure you from nerve tingling personal experience, that the first is pain relief. (As an aside, I have always said that the ideal doctor to consult, is one who has had the ailment you are suffering from. I am now a specialist in fractured toes.) Pain relief! Some paracetamol with a good lump of codeine in it works well for the first 24 hours, and after that, simple paracetamol is really all that is necessary for the smaller toes, but the big toe might need the extra oomph of codeine for a few more days.

Again there is a difference between big and little toes as far as further treatment is concerned. The big toe often needs some kind of immobilization, and splinting or even plaster may be required. For the smaller toes, taping to the next toe up is all that is necessary, or if it is the very tip of the toes that is fractured (that’s the bit we medico’s call the ‘Terminal Expansion’), just masterfully ignore the toe.

Shoes? Or no shoes? Two schools of thought here. The first is just to wear sandals or thick socks only, and undoubtedly this can be more comfortable, but the toes are more vulnerable to more small knocks and bumps. The other school of thought is to screw your eyes up tight and get the foot into a shoe. It contains the swelling, effectively immobilizes the digit and does offer some protection to bumping of the exquisitely painful extremity. There are fancy air splints shoes as well!