Almost everyone has to deal with a bruised toenail at one time or another. No matter the cause, bruising your toe can make it hard to run, walk, or simply stand. How can something as small as a toenail cause so much pain?!
Thankfully, there are several things you can do to help ease your discomfort. Here’s some information on some of the common causes of this problem, ways to get relief, and tips on how to avoid this problem in the future.
Common Causes of a Bruised Toenail
While a bruised toenail is usually not that serious, it can cause a lot of pain, making it difficult to move around. This condition is also known as a subungual hematoma because it involves bleeding underneath a nail. The reason your toe turns blue or black is that blood has leaked into the tissues near the area of impact. 1
There are many ways that a bruised toenail can occur — for example, by dropping something heavy on your toe, or stubbing your toe on a piece of furniture.
On the other hand, a bruised toenail can happen for reasons that might not seem so obvious. You may, for instance, be wearing shoes that are too small. Your toe is constantly rubbing against the inside of the shoe, which can lead to bruising. If you wear pointed shoes on a regular basis (think high heels), that can compress your toes and form a bruise. 2
If you’re a runner, you’re likely familiar with the term “runner’s toenail.” This happens when your nail gets forced into the front of your shoe repeatedly. The more you run, the higher the chances you’ll have a bruised toenail as a result.3
Healing Your Bruised Toenail
Luckily, the pain from a bruised toenail will typically subside gradually, and the discoloration will lessen as your nail grows out. But there are some things you can do to help speed the healing process. Here are a few options to consider:
If you’ve hurt your toe, apply ice as soon as possible to help reduce swelling and bruising. Pour some crushed ice into a plastic bag, then wrap the bag in a towel and gently place it on your toe. You could also try putting a bag of frozen vegetables on the affected area. Keep the ice on your toe for about 20 minutes every two hours.4
· Warm Water
Soaking your foot in warm water can also help speed up healing and ease discomfort. Fill a bucket or a large bowl with warm (not hot!) water, and soak for about 15 minutes. Adding some Epsom salts can also help with healing.5
· Rest and Elevation
Try to stay off of your injured toe as much as possible. The more pressure you put on the toe, the longer it will take to heal. Whenever you can, elevate your foot to reduce the flow of blood to the injured area. This can also help reduce swelling and pain.6
· Other Remedies
Certain herbs and spices can also help this process. For example, arnica can help relieve discomfort and swelling.7 Turmeric is also known for its soothing properties, and it may help reduce swelling.8Aloe vera gel has also been known to soothe and comfort skin (and it could even help bruises disappear faster).9
Bruise or Fungus?
If you haven’t suffered any sort of toe injury, or had any issue with your shoes, there’s a chance you don’t have a bruised toenail. You might have developed some sort of fungal infection. Both of these issues can result in similar discoloration of your toenail.
If you notice black spots under the nail, for example, that is probably a fungus.10 Other signs of a fungus include a foul odor and separation of the nail from the nail bed.11 A fungus can turn into a potential health hazard if not addressed, so make sure you see your doctor.
Avoiding a Bruised Toenail
Follow these tips to help avoid having to deal with a bruised toenail:
1. Wear protective shoes if you work in a job where there’s a risk of dropping heavy objects. Steel-toed boots will protect your feet.
2. Make sure you trim your toenails regularly. This will not only reduce the chances of bruising, it will also help you avoid fungal development.
3. Wear properly-fitting shoes, especially if you jog or run regularly.
4. See your doctor if your bruise doesn’t go away after a few weeks.
The Bottom Line
A bruised toenail is bound to happen at some point —but by taking the time to address the problem as soon as you can, you could help promote faster healing. And taking some simple precautions can go a long way toward helping ensure you don’t have to deal with this problem again.