Physiotherapy for Dislocated Toe

Physiotherapy – Dislocated toes are often confused with broken toes or sprained toes because symptoms are usually very similar. A dislocated toe however, refers to an injury to the toe in which the bones of the toe are moved out of place due to direct or indirect impact on the toe. This may also cause the toe to look deformed and prompt medical treatment is often necessary.

Athletes tend to be the most common victims of dislocated toes and also experience toe ligament tears (sprains) and other injuries accompanying the dislocation. Toe dislocation need to be treated promptly so that the joint can be realigned back in its position more easily.


Dislocated toes can occur as a result of major or minor injuries to the toe. Common causes include walking on an uneven surface or direct trauma to the toe. Even rolling your foot can increase the risk of toe dislocation.

Toe dislocations are also common in sportsmen involved in various sports such as rugby, football or soccer.


A person with a toe dislocation may experience excruciating pain when trying to move the injured area of the foot, by walking, running or putting pressure to the toe.

Additional symptoms of toe dislocation include difficulty walking, bruising, swelling or tenderness of the injured area. Make sure you are careful while walking or removing socks or shoes to prevent unnecessary toe pain.

The toe may also seem to be deformed and out of place – making it look different than normal. Toe paralysis and numbness are also likely to occur if the nerves and blood vessels are under too much stress or pressure.


Conservative care (non-invasive treatment that avoids surgery) for dislocated toes:

  • Podiatry treatment
  • Deeper/wider fitting shoes
  • Simple insoles
  • Splints, padding or toe props
  • Steroid injections

Home treatment

It is important that your injured toe is immediately treated. Ideally, treatment should be undertaken with a health care practitioner but home treatment can also be effective and helpful. As many tissues contained in the toe begin to lose their elasticity within 6 hours it is essential to treat dislocated toes as soon as possible. It is extremely important to avoid self-adjusting the misaligned toe yourself as you are likely to cause more damage.

However, if you notice an obvious deformity or crookedness in the joint area of the toe, you can rectify this yourself by gently tugging the affected toe away from its foot. This may be a painful maneuver but if done quickly, damage and extended pain can be minimised. If you are not sure of what to do, seek medical help immediately.

If the toe maintains a straight position after readjusting it, a thin piece of fabric or felt can be placed between the injured toe and its adjacent toe. Tape can then be used in a technique called buddy taping, which involves taping an injured toe to the adjacent healthy toe, which acts as a splint. Make sure you do not wrap the toes too tight, as you do not want to disrupt circulation.

Once the toe has been readjusted and taped by either a health practitioner or yourself it is necessary to follow the RICE method to reduce swelling and pain:

  • Rice. Rest the injured toe by avoiding movement, walking or running—especially weight bearing movement that can cause unnecessary pain. Try to spend as much time as you can off the injured foot. Apply a splint and use crutches to support movement if necessary or advised by your health care practitioner.
  • Ice. Applying a cold compress to the injury prior to realignment may reduce swelling and pain in the toe. Avoid applying ice directly to the skin to prevent spasms due to cold temperatures. Wrap an ice pack or ice in a hand towel before applying it to your injury. Apply for 20 minutes, every 2-3 hours.
  • Compress. Apply a medical band to gently wrap the affected toe to reduce pain and swelling. This will also immobilise the toe and limit movement. Avoid compressing for prolonged periods as too much may delay recovery.
  • Elevate. Elevate the injured toe above heart level to encourage circulation and reduce swelling.

While it is possible to treat your dislocated toe at home, it is most beneficial to seek assistance from a health care professional to avoid further damage to your toe. Our friendly and experienced health practitioners at  Happy Physio are very familiar with dislocated toes and will happily advise you on the correct treatment methods to follow in regards to healing your dislocated toes. Happy Physio can also provide you with exercises to assist the rehabilitation of your toe and get you back to performing daily, sports, work and leisure activities with ease.

Please do not hesitate to contact Happy Physio on (08) 9272 7359 to discuss how we can help you mend your dislocated toe.