One question local podiatrists get all the time is how to treat toe pain. The problem with this question, of course, is that toe pain — while extremely common — can be caused by so many different injuries or conditions. Below is some advice on how to treat toe pain associated with five of the most common toe problems:
- Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown nail treatment can start at home, as long as you catch it early. If you see redness or feel tenderness where the corner of your nail meets the tissue of your big toe, you’re probably dealing with an ingrown nail. Start by soaking your feet in hot water and using dental floss or cotton to gently lift the nail away from the skin. If you don’t see an improvement in a few days, then you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your podiatrist to have the ingrown portion of the nail removed before it becomes infected.
Most people know what causes blisters and how to recognize them, but few know how to treat them correctly. You shouldn’t pop a small blister in most cases. Instead, just cover it loosely with a bandage and avoid activity that will irritate it until it heals on its own. If you have a large blister that needs to be drained, make sure you sterilize the needle or straight pin you use, make only a small puncture at the edge of the blister, and clean the area thoroughly after draining the blister. If you have diabetes or any condition that makes you susceptible to infection (such as HIV or cancer), you should never drain a blister at home.
Bunions are bony growths that form at the base of the big toe, and they range in severity. The pain associated with mild bunions can be relieved by wearing roomier shoes or padding and covering the area with cotton or moleskin. More severe bunions may require surgery; there’s actually more than one bunion foot surgery, but in most the doctor will shave down the bone so it no longer juts out.
- Corns and Callouses
These are hardened layers of skin that appear most frequently between the toes. They’re caused by friction, so they may disappear on their own if the source of friction (bad shoes, for example) is taken out of the equation; if they’re causing pain, however, you’ll need to have them removed by a podiatrist.
Although people tend to think of arthritis as affecting larger joints, it’s not uncommon in the toes. Over-the-counter medication can help to ease inflammation, and orthotics can make walking more comfortable. If you’re still experiencing significant pain, your doctor may recommend steroid injections or surgery as a longer-term strategy.
Do you have anything to add on how to treat toe pain caused by common conditions? Join the discussion in the comments.