Most people experience big toe pain at some point in life. There are many reasons why your toe might hurt. Some of them, such as an ingrown toenail or a fracture, are temporary, and they usually go away after a one-time intervention. Others, like bunions and arthritis, are chronic and require long-term care. At Island Foot Clinics in Kelowna, BC and Victoria, BC, we can diagnose and treat various kinds of toe pain. 

8 Possible Reasons for Big Toe Pain (and What Kelowna, BC or Victoria, BC Residents Can Do About Them)

1. An Ingrown Toenail 

If you’ve cut your toenail too short or made too much of a curve, the nail could start to grow into your flesh. This condition, called an ingrown toenail, leads to pain, redness, and swelling. In severe cases, the tissue around your toenail can get infected and start to leak pus. At that point, it’s best to see a foot specialist, who can offer you prescription-strength medication and remove the ingrown nail, either temporarily or permanently. 

However, in the beginning stages, this condition can be treated at home. You should start by taking some over-the-counter painkillers and soaking your foot in a warm bath several times a day. Always wear comfortable and breathable footwear, and make sure your feet are dry throughout the day. If your pain doesn’t ease after a few days, you should book an appointment at the clinic.

2. Arthritis 

Arthritis is a condition that affects countless people, especially those over the age of 60. It is often caused by normal wear and tear or an injury. It is an inflammation of the joints, and some of the most common symptoms include a painful lump at the top of the toe, swelling of the joint, and problems moving the big toe.

Although arthritis doesn’t tend to heal on its own, mild cases can be managed at home. You might need to take over-the-counter pain relievers and ice your toes after long walks or exercise. Often, changing your footwear can also provide some relief. Over time, many people who have arthritis need to get their toe joint replaced, fused, or resurfaced. This can stop the pain and allow patients to regain their previous level of activity.

3. Turf Toe 

People who play sports that involve a lot of running or jumping might suffer from turf toe, a condition that occurs when the toe is repeatedly jammed or bent upwards. Since it’s caused by repetitive movement, this issue often builds up over time. At the beginning, patients might notice a slight soreness. Later on, there might be swelling and a loss of mobility in the toe joint. 

The first thing you should do if you suffer from turf toe is to temporarily stop the activity that is causing the problem. Resting, icing, elevating, and compressing your foot can prevent the injury from getting any worse. If the condition is very severe, surgery might be necessary, but this is rare. Once you’ve recovered and you’re ready to play again, you should wear less flexible shoes, so your toe is less likely to get bent or jammed again.

4. Gout 

People suffer from gout because uric acid, which is usually removed from the body in urine, builds up in their joints. The toe joint is a common location for gout, and the symptoms might include an inflammation that causes the skin to darken and heat up, swelling, shiny skin over the joint, and intense pain during the night or first thing in the morning. 

The inflammation usually clears up within three to ten days, but gout can come back every few months or years. To prevent and manage this condition, patients should drink plenty of water, rest and elevate the affected foot, and take painkillers to cope with the symptoms while they last. Foods and beverages that contain a lot of purines should be avoided. These include alcohol, liver, bacon, and some kinds of seafood.

5. A Fracture 

The bones in the big toe can fracture if a lot of stress is placed on them. Toe fractures can either occur because the patient kicked something really hard or because a heavy object was dropped on the toe, but they can also develop if stress is placed on the foot repeatedly. The two most common symptoms are swelling and pain, but there might also be some discoloration in the affected area.

The treatment for a big toe fracture depends on the severity of the injury. A mild fracture can be cured with rest, elevation, and occasional icing. Often, wearing a boot or binding two toes together is a good idea because it prevents the fractured bone from moving too much. If the fracture is severe, your Kelowna, BC or Victoria, BC specialist might recommend surgery.

6. A Bunion 

A particularly common type of big toe pain is a bunion. This is a deformity of the base of the big toe, at the joint that links the toe to the rest of your foot. Because the joint protrudes outwards, the big toe gets pushed inwards towards the second toe. Sometimes, it even overlaps the other toe, in which case walking might become difficult. Bunions are often associated with pain, inflammation, and swelling. 

While this condition can be genetic, it is often caused by the patient’s choice of shoes. A foot specialist might recommend flat, wide shoes that don’t put further pressure on the bunion. They will also suggest bunion pads, over-the-counter painkillers, icing, and massage. Severe bunions are sometimes operated on, especially if the patient is still young.

7. Sesamoiditis 

The sesamoids are the bones that are either embedded in muscles or connected to tendons. The kneecap is the largest example, but we also have a sesamoid below the big toe. When the tendons it is attached to get inflamed, the patient experiences a gradual buildup of pain, trouble moving the big toe, pain on the ball of their foot, swelling, and bruising. 

Sesamoiditis can be treated in several ways, including steroid injections, strapping or taping the foot, and painkillers. Sometimes, a foot doctor might recommend using custom orthopedic devices, or they might suggest visiting a physiotherapist, especially if the patient’s posture is causing the issue.

8. Severe Nail Fungus 

Many people suffer from nail fungus, which is commonly passed on in places where people go barefoot, such as swimming pools. At the beginning, this condition isn’t usually painful. Instead, patients’ nails change color, and they might become thicker. Over time, the shape of the nails changes significantly, and they start to place pressure on the patient’s soft tissues. Sometimes, the whole nail lifts off, which leads to pain and swelling. 

If you have nail fungus, you should speak to your doctor about treatment methods. Antifungal cream or nail-softening cream can often bring relief, but in some cases, anti-fungal tablets are necessary.

A wide variety of conditions can cause big toe pain, including an ingrown toenail, arthritis, turf toe, gout, a fracture, a bunion, sesamoiditis, and severe nail fungus. Patients who have been in pain for several days or weeks should speak to a professional. Contact us now at Island Foot Clinics in Kelowna, BC or Victoria, BC to book your first appointment. We will be delighted to welcome you to the clinic and develop a treatment plan for your toe pain.