Referred Pain: Uncommon Symptoms Of A Broken, Dislocated Or Sprained Toe

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If you hit your foot on a hard object and one of your toes looks slightly out place, you may think that you simply injured the toe and try to treat it on your own. However, you don't want to do this. There's a big possibility that you broke or dislocated the toe instead. In these cases, you'll need to see an orthopedic surgeon for care to treat the toe properly.

Although swelling and pain are common symptoms that develop in the joints, ligaments, nerves, and tendons of broken and dislocated toes, each individual injury can also create uncommon pain in different areas of the foot, heel and hip bone. When this happens, an orthopedic doctor describes these strange symptoms as referred pain. Before you self-treat or self-medicate your injured toe, make note of these types of referred pain symptoms.

Pain in the Plantar Fascia

Sometimes, injuries, diseases and illnesses can develop in one area of the body but produce symptoms in other locations of the body. These are the referred symptoms mentioned earlier. In the case of an injured toe, the referred symptoms can occur the plantar fascia of your foot.

The plantar fascia is a tissue or tendon that connects the sole of the foot to the back of the ankle or heel. Your toes attach to the plantar fascia with ligaments and other tissues. If you flex or point the toes on your uninjured foot upward, you'll feel the plantar fascia move. Because the plantar fascia connects directly to your toes' third joints, it can easily experience referred pain.

The referred pain in your plantar fascia occurs in the nerves of the tissue. The nerves in the plantar fascia stretch from your toes to the heel of the foot. The large network of nerves allow the fascia to feel pain in any location on or near it. For instance, you may:

  • Notice discomfort in the sole or ball of your foot 
  • Feel discomfort in your heel bone 
  • Experience pain in your ankle

‚ÄčThe pain in the plantar fascia varies in degree or severity, depending on how much damage your toe experienced when you injured it. For example, if you dislocated a joint in the toe, you may feel achy in the plantar fascia when you stand on your foot. The joints in the dislocated toe compresses or squeezes the nerves between it until they throb with pain. But if you broke a bone or pulled a tendon in the toe, you may experience a searing pain in the fascia tissues closest to the toe.

You can also experience pain in your hip bone if the toe develops an infection that spreads to this location.

Pain in the Hips

Referred pain in the hip bone is very serious and requires an immediate visit to the orthopedic surgeon. You could have an infection in the injured toe that spread to the nerves and blood vessels of your hip bone through your bloodstream. 

Infections in an injured toe can occur when bones fracture or break inside the skin. The pieces of bone can burrow or push through the deep tissues surrounding the toe, which attract white blood cells to fight off the misplaced bone fragments. The infection eventually enters the bloodstream and moves elsewhere. This is called septicemia.

Bloodstream infections, such as the one above, should be treated with antibiotics and other stringent precautions before they travel beyond referred site. Bone surgery to repair your broken toe may be an option as well. If you don't receive treatment, the bacteria inside the infection can travel to your heart and lungs, which places you at risk for heat and lung failure.

Treating a toe injury at home because you don't think it's serious is a bad idea. If you injure your toe, as well as experience pain in other areas of the body, contact your surgeon or doctor right away by phone or through sites like